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Transcript: Sen. John Kerry on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published April 06, 2008 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the April 6, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss Iraq and presidential politics is Senator John Kerry. He's on the campaign trail for Senator Barack Obama, and he comes to us from Philadelphia.
Senator, let's start with the question I asked Senator McCain about Barack Obama's fitness to be president. Take a look, if you will — back when you were running in 2003, here's what you had to say about experience. "The presidency is not the place for on-the-job training on national security and foreign affairs issues."
Question: Why was experience important then and it isn't now?
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS.: Well, it's judgment, judgment and experience, and I think Barack Obama comes with — look, he has more experience in foreign policy than George Bush, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton had when they became president, Chris.
Number two, judgment is the critical element here. I mean, John McCain — I just listened to him. John McCain has been wrong. He said that he said it would be long and tough in Iraq. In fact, in '03, John McCain said the war would be brief and the oil would pay for it. He was wrong.
Last month he said that Muqtada al-Sadr was losing his influence. He was wrong.
In January he said Basra is not a problem. He was wrong.
In fact, on the 100 years war issue, John McCain is being disingenuous, because what he said in that interview was as long as there is no violence — which indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of Iraq itself.
Our own national intelligence people tell us it is the American presence that is attracting jihadists and creating violence. So if he's talking about being there for 40 years, 100 years, he's talking about attracting more and more terrorists and not paying attention to the larger challenges.
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, Senator Kerry. I mean, on the question of the 100 years — and you campaigned for president in 2004. I never heard you say, "Let's get all of our troops out of South Korea," where they've been for half a century.
KERRY: Well, absolutely not, but...
WALLACE: Let me just ask — I never heard you say, "Let's pull our troops out of Germany," where they've been for more than half a century.
That was the model he was talking about there, not 100 years of war.
KERRY: Absolutely I disagree, Chris, and if you go back and look at what he said on the Charlie Rose show four months ago, he was asked by Charlie Rose — he put it in the context of no casualties.
And he said, "Well, do you think you can you do that in Iraq?" And John McCain said, "No, you can't do it in Iraq because of the culture and religion." He got it right then. He's getting it wrong now.
The point is that you have, you know, a John McCain who really has shown, I think, a misunderstanding of where the real center of the War on Terror is. He has adopted the Bush policy with respect to the War on Terror, which is a mistake with respect to how we're prosecuting it in Iraq.
And he has ignored what we need to be doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as has the Bush administration.
WALLACE: Senator, if I may, I think you're conflating two different interviews. When he talked about the 100 years, he was talking specifically in a town hall meeting in New Hampshire where they said, "You know, we might be there 50 years." He said, "Maybe 100 years."
WALLACE: And then — if I may — and then specifically talked about the South Korea model and the...
KERRY: Yes, I know that, Chris.
WALLACE: ... German model. But let me ask you, if I may...
KERRY: But no, no, no, no, no, don't — Chris...
WALLACE: Let me ask you...
WALLACE: Then you can answer any question you want.
KERRY: All right.
WALLACE: Back in 2004, you spoke very differently about John McCain. You considered him as a possible vice presidential running mate.
In May of 2004, you said that McCain was your first choice to be secretary of defense, and that's at a time when we had already been in Iraq for more than a year, sir.
KERRY: No, I didn't say that, and I...
WALLACE: You didn't say which, sir?
KERRY: I didn't say that he was my first choice. I said he was somebody...
WALLACE: Well, it was a quote from May 2004.
KERRY: But let me be very clear about John McCain in 2004. John McCain in 2004 was a Senator John McCain who had opposed the Bush tax cuts, who had indicated at that point in time a very different attitude on any number of subjects from global climate change to how you treat the powerful in Washington.
Nomination John McCain is a different person. He is now supporting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
He voted against the bankruptcy bill — in other words — I mean, for it. He took the position of the most powerful interests against the average American.
He votes against the minimum wage, repeatedly again.
I think you have a very different John McCain. But come back...
WALLACE: But on the war in Iraq, sir, there wasn't a different John McCain. And in 2004...
KERRY: There was not a John McCain...
WALLACE: ... if I may, he had been supporting the Iraq war. He was one of the biggest supporters. Of course, you had voted for it as well. And you were talking about him as being a member of a Kerry administration.
KERRY: No, I — we had a conversation about whether or not to explore the issue. We never got to the full exploration, Chris, number one.
Number two, let's be very clear about this 100 years. Again, the model in Japan and in Korea is a model where they have adopted a full democracy and where they have none of the insurgency, Al Qaeda, jihadists, religious extremism, that you have in Iraq.
John McCain himself four months ago — please go back and read the interview — said in answer to Charlie Rose, "No, I don't envision it being possible to stay that period of time in Iraq, and we will withdraw," he said, because of the religious and cultural component.
So you have a different John McCain today when he talks about 100 years or a million years.
Now, the bigger issue — and this is where Barack Obama has shown the judgment to be president juxtaposed to John McCain. Barack Obama understands that the policies of John McCain and George Bush are not making America safer.
The fact is that Iran is more powerful. Iraq is in chaos fundamentally, a dysfunctional government. You have Afghanistan where the Taliban is resurging. You have Pakistan which is fragile.
You haven't yet succeeded in dealing with the nuclear weapons of North Korea. You still have Al Qaeda reconstituted...
KERRY: ... Hamas more powerful, Hezbollah...
WALLACE: Senator, can I get back to one of my questions?
KERRY: Yes, but, Chris, this is your question.
WALLACE: Well, no, it really — I think we've gone off the track at this point.
A few days ago, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said this about John McCain, and let's put it up on the screen. He called him "a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years."
You complain about Republican attacks on you back in 2004. What do you think of Howard Dean calling McCain a blatant opportunist?
KERRY: Well, I honestly don't know what he was referring to or where that comes from. I'm not going to sit here — I mean, the key issue here...
WALLACE: Do you think he's a blatant opportunist?
KERRY: No. Look, I think John McCain has taken positions in the course of trying to win the Republican nomination, whether it's the reversal and flip-flop on the intolerance with respect to Jerry Falwell and others, or whether it is the Bush tax cuts flip-flop, or whether it is this flip-flop now on the issue of Iraq, or whether it is, you know, global climate change, where he has not yet signed on to Joe Lieberman and John Warner's bill.
There is a clear indication of a Nomination John McCain versus the Senator John McCain.
WALLACE: Well, Senator, I mean, with all due respect, I mean, every politician, frankly, including you, have been accused of flip- flops over the years.
KERRY: Yes, but my...
WALLACE: But if I may, do you think that John McCain was an opportunist when he was supporting the troop surge when no one else in the Congress was supporting the troop surge?
KERRY: No, I don't believe that.
WALLACE: Do you think John McCain was an opportunist when he refused to take early release from a North Vietnamese prison camp because he was the son of an admiral, because he said he was going to stay there for years, as long as all the other Americans did?
KERRY: Chris, please. I think you almost insult my intelligence and my values and those of every American. Nobody ever would insinuate that John McCain is anything but a hero for his activities in the prison camp...
WALLACE: Well, Howard Dean called him a blatant opportunist.
KERRY: Well, I think he's referring to what's happened in this period of time, I assume, with respect to the nomination. I mean, I just referred to several major reversals. Now, you know, come back to what you just said about me, et cetera.
You know, the one reversal that the Republicans tried to play with was my vote against an amendment that I had voted for because I wanted to pay for the war. That was a vote of principle.
When the Senate refused to pay for the war and the Senate refused to demand a plan from the administration, out of principle I said, "I'm not going to vote for that." That was not a flip-flop. That was a vote of principle.
Now, you'll have to explain to me how voting for the Bush tax cuts after you vote against them is not a change, a fundamental change, of principle.
WALLACE: Senator, if I may, we're running out of time and I want to ask you about new events.
General Petraeus is coming to testify before Congress this week. A new National Intelligence Estimate indicates the troop surge has brought not victory, but some success both on the military and on the political side.
Shouldn't Petraeus be allowed to finish the troop drawdown in July, then have a pause to see how things happen, before deciding whether to pull out any more troops?
KERRY: Well, I think he's going to — obviously, there aren't the votes in the Senate not to do that, so he's going to be allowed to do that, Chris. That's not the issue.
But the issue is really what I was focusing on earlier about this huge difference between Barack Obama and John McCain and the security of our country. It's not a political issue. It's a real issue.
The fact is America is less safe today because of the policies that have been pursued by this administration. John McCain supports the policy that our own intelligence agency tells us is attracting more jihadists, creating more terrorists, and diverting us from the real focus in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Barack Obama understands that. John McCain apparently does not.
And his policy wants to continue with a bogged down America in Iraq rather than change the dynamic. Barack Obama has said we will be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. And he knows we have to change the dynamic, deal with Iran, deal with Syria, create real diplomacy.
The reason the surge has been successful is partly because of the increase of our troops, who are superb, but also because Muqtada al- Sadr declared a truce and because, as you said yourself to John McCain, the Sunnis decided they were better off working with the Americans.
That is not an equation for long-term success in Iraq.
WALLACE: Senator Kerry, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for a very spirited interview.
KERRY: Well, they always are.
WALLACE: And please come back, sir.
KERRY: Thank you very much.
Sunday—we’ll get the latest on the battle over Trump’s cabinet picks and a preview the first orders of business for the 115th Congress from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.