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Transcript: Govs. Bill Richardson and Ed Rendell

The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'FOX News Sunday,' July 25, 2004:

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now to preview the Democratic convention is Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who is the convention chairman, and Ed Rendell, governor of the key swing state of Pennsylvania and a past chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

And, gentlemen, welcome to both of you. Thanks for coming in today.

Governor Richardson, let me start with you and a local issue that could have a big impact. The city of Boston and the firefighter union have so far failed to reach agreement; both the police and firemen are talking about setting up picket lines. Could that disrupt this convention?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: There could be a few problems.

Our view is that this is going to be settled sometime this morning.  There's been a lot of progress with the firefighters, with the police unions. An arbitrator was appointed, a state-appointed arbitrator.

We think, Chris, this is going to be the most harmonious convention we've had in years. There are no platform fights of any significance. All the candidates, the primary candidates, are unified behind Senator Kerry.  We're going to talk about positive issues. We're not going to be bashing the president at every turn.

So we believe that that issue relating to the labor dispute sometime this morning will be settled.

WALLACE: Let me just follow up on that, though, because a lot of pro- labor delegates are saying they will not cross picket lines. And I want to talk about your candidate, John Kerry. He refused to cross a picket line and speak to the mayor's conference here last month. And let me put up what he said at that time. Take a look, if you will.

He said the following: "I don't cross picket lines. I never have."

Governor Richardson, Senator Kerry wouldn't flip-flop on that, would he?

RICHARDSON: No. And I believe this will be settled, Chris, sometime this morning. Mayor Menino, the mayor of Boston, has been working around the clock. We expect no disruptions.

WALLACE: Are you putting pressure, Democratic Party putting pressure, saying let's...

RICHARDSON: Well, we're getting both sides to work together. Let's put it that way. But no Democrat will cross a picket line, and we respect that. The unions are a very important component of our constituency. But we do think a lot of progress has been made, and especially the firefighters are going to get a good contract, as will the police.

WALLACE: Governor Rendell, the Kerry campaign says that voters still don't know John Kerry. They don't know his agenda. They don't really know who he is. And one of the key jobs of this convention is to tell them.

John Kerry has, in effect, been the Democratic nominee for five months now. He's spent more than $150 million. Why is he having such a hard time getting through to voters?

GOV. ED RENDELL, D-PA.: Well, I don't think that's anything unusual about John Kerry at this stage of the presidential campaign. Most Americans don't begin to focus — other than the diehard primary voters, most Americans don't focus on the presidential election.  They tune in at the conventions a little bit, and then they focus at the time of the debates. 

So this is really the first chance Senator Kerry is going to have to talk to that broad-based spectrum.

I think Democratic base voters know John Kerry and, for the most part, are very pleased with him. 

WALLACE: But, you know, Governor Rendell, successful — I think you'd  agree with this — successful presidential candidates, whether it's Reagan or Clinton or Bush, all have a simple, coherent, easily understandable message. In a sentence or two, what's John Kerry's?

RENDELL: I think John Kerry's message is very simple. It's stronger at home — and that means the economy, it means health care for Americans, it means better homeland security — and respected abroad. We can't go it alone in the global marketplace, and we can't go it alone in world affairs.  I mean, we've seen the price of going it alone in Iraq. That's a message, and it's a good message. 

WALLACE: All right. Governor Rendell, I want to ask you about the other half of the ticket. Back when Senator Kerry was still choosing his running-mate, you had this to say about one of the following. And take a  look at it here, if you will.

"I think John Edwards, because he's been in the Senate such a short time, has a handicap on the foreign policy and terrorism side. I think it's a handicap he can overcome."

Should someone running for vice president have to overcome a handicap on national security?

RENDELL: Well, let's flip that. When Governor George Bush ran for president in 2000, he had infinitely less experience on foreign relations and terrorism than John Edwards has had. Governor Bush had none. John Edwards has been in the Senate for 5 1/2 years in a pretty tumultuous time.  Chris, what experience did Governor Bush have in terrorism or foreign relations? Zero. And he was the presidential candidate.

WALLACE: But, if I may, we're in a different time, obviously, since  9/11, the war on terror. It was you who said it, and you said it in March after he'd had these 5 1/2 years in the Senate. You said that he had this handicap. 

RENDELL: Well, sure, but he also — all of us are complex people.  All of us have some assets and some liabilities. I mean, Bill Richardson, for example, wouldn't have had that handicap. But John Edwards has so many other things going for him: tremendous insight into the problems facing Americans here at home. He's one of the smartest people in the Senate, and he's a quick learner.

And again, juxtapose his experience compared to candidate Bush in 2000, and he's way ahead of the game.

And the question is, who will be a better vice president for America, John Edwards or Dick Cheney? And we'll run the election on that test any time, any place.

WALLACE: But you're still saying that he's going to need some on-the- job training on national security?

RENDELL: No, again, I said a handicap compared to — I was assessing candidates at the time — compared to Bill Richardson, let's say, who had had all of that experience in foreign affairs.

But John Edwards has been in the Senate during the most incredible period of time. He's smart. He learns quickly. And I think when you compare his experience to Governor George Bush in 2000, it isn't even close.

WALLACE: Governor Richardson, I want to tap your foreign-policy experience. The 9/11 Commission issued its report this week. And you say that you feel it implied that the invasion of Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror.

Two questions: One, do you believe that? And secondly, how would a Kerry policy on Iraq differ from the Bush policy in Iraq?

RICHARDSON: Well, first of all, we would get international support for our goals in Iraq. We would get NATO, we would get the United Nations, we would get Muslim troops. We would have more international support.

Secondly, on the 9/11 Commission, Chris, I think what Senator Kerry has said is right on, that we shouldn't politicize this issue; that we should, both parties, work to fix the problem: fix our problem with our intelligence capabilities; set up a counterterrorism center at the FBI; adequately fund homeland security — chemical plants, do something about our nuclear power plants, our first responders, our firemen; also have a sensible strategy on the war on terrorism.

I did say that our intensive focus in Iraq has hurt our foreign policy by not focusing on problems like the war on terrorism, the situation in North Korea, the Middle East peace process.

What we want to do is have a foreign policy that shows that America is strong, that Senator Kerry has a lifetime of service — his Vietnam service, 19 years in the Foreign Relations Committee — to exercise a strong national-security policy. Stronger at home, I think as Governor Rendell said — health care, education — safer at home and respect abroad, have a foreign policy where America is a leader again and we get international support for our goals.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on your comment that you feel it's hurt our efforts in other areas of the war on terror.

Looking back, was the war in Iraq a mistake?

RICHARDSON: No. And I believe Senator Kerry was supportive of the at war. I was supportive when we went in.

But we didn't have an exit plan. I didn't see us having any kind of connection with al Qaeda in Iraq. That proved to be a bogus issue. The issue, too, of the weapons of mass destruction.

So again, we have spent, Chris...

WALLACE: Given all of that, then why wasn't it a mistake?

RICHARDSON: We have spent $200 billion in funds that we could have spent at home. Instead of building bridges and schools in Baghdad, we want to build in Pennsylvania and New Mexico. And so, there's been misplaced priority.

WALLACE: I want to ask you about this question that somehow John Kerry becomes president and suddenly, magically, there's this international coalition. I mean, the fact is, Governor Richardson, countries are pulling out of Iraq right now because of the threat of hostage-taking.

Can you name a single major country that, under a president Kerry, you believe he could get to contribute a significant new force to fighting in Iraq?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I can. I could you tell that with NATO, with our European allies, with Muslim nations, I think the efforts of Senator Kerry's internationalist background, I think we could go to the Security Council of the United Nations and...

WALLACE: President Bush has done all of those things.

RICHARDSON: But I think with a new approach — I would have, if I were President Bush — I want him to succeed in this. I'd like him to call a summit of European nations, of NATO nations, saying, "Look, we have got an internationalize this effort. There has to be a successful exit plan.  There have to be ways in which there's more burden-sharing."

And as an American, when we are spending $200 billion that we could have spent on our own domestic priorities, I want to see that burden- sharing go to many other countries. Senator Kerry has the credibility to bring those countries in.

WALLACE: Governor Rendell, this, in the end, is all about votes. How much of a bounce do you think that Senator Kerry and the Democrats will get out of this convention? Where will this race stand next weekend?

RENDELL: Well, I don't think we'll get very much of a bounce, Chris, because most of the bounce you get out of a convention is because of the exciting of a vice-presidential pick. Tremendous bounce in San Francisco when Gerry Ferraro was picked; great bounce when Joe Lieberman was picked.

Because Senator Kerry picked John Edwards a couple of weeks ago, we got our bounce then. And the bounce is working. As you know, there's a poll out showing us 10 points ahead in Pennsylvania with Ralph Nader in the race.

So I don't think we're going to get much more of a bounce, maybe a point or two. I think John Kerry is going to do a great job introducing himself to that broad spectrum of voters on Thursday night and really knocking out succinctly his plans for America.

WALLACE: But, Governor Richardson, the race is still basically a dead heat across the country. If you don't get a big bounce out of this convention, the month of August George W. Bush is going to be able to campaign without any spending limits, and he's still got his convention at the end of September. Isn't that problem?

RICHARDSON: No, because, Chris, if you look historically, no challenger has been slightly ahead in our history, as Senator Kerry is today. Most challengers at the time of convention with an incumbent presidents are at least 15, 16 points behind.

We're exactly what we want to be, and we feel that our objectives of this convention: one, introduce Senator Kerry to the American people — his character, his Vietnam service, his experience; secondly, connecting the issues of his priorities for a domestic agenda — safer at home, education, health care; and thirdly, I think this theme of America is going to be strong at home with policies that help our people and having respect internationally, an internationalist approach to our problems to achieve our goals.

So this is going to be an introduction of Senator Kerry to maybe 10 percent of the vote that right now has not made up their minds.

WALLACE: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there.  Governor Richardson, Governor Rendell, thank you so much for coming in today. And we'll see you the rest of the week here in Boston.

RENDELL: Thank you.