Kerry Campaign Advice From Jesse Jackson

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Sept. 28, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C., DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Iraq is a mess and it's a mess because of two people: George Bush (search) and Dick Cheney (search). That's why it's a mess.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sen. Kerry continued wavering in this campaign, opposing the war, but claiming the President's plan is his own, calling himself an alliance builder, then belittling America's closest friends, shows an agenda not of conviction, but of political opportunism.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Dick Cheney and John Edwards (search) trading shots as their running mates prepare for Thursday's debate when Bush and Kerry can attack each other in person.

Joining me now to talk about the campaign, President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend, good to see you. Thanks for coming on.


GIBSON: Here's John Kerry, we were talking about it in the last segment, suddenly just falling off the table in some key areas of the polling. What is the Democratic candidate doing wrong?

JACKSON: The clearer he makes the distinction between his policies and Bush's policies, he begins to grow in strength and grow in the polls, because people do want an alternative. They don't want fusion and confusion.

For example, Mr. Bush inherited a surplus. He gave half of it back to the top 1 percent, also avoid paying taxes and then getting a little bit of contrast. That was an incentive to divest America.

Kerry's plan is quite the opposite. When Mr. Bush said that Iraq is a threat to us, an imminent threat to us, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda connection, the whole Congress believed and trusted him. But now we find no weapons of mass destruction, no Al Qaeda.

We're losing lives, we're losing money. The clearer Kerry is on that position, the more you're going to gain support.

GIBSON: Reverend, you know that those very points and more, an actual longer list, are the points that John Kerry has been making all summer. Has it worked? What's going on?

JACKSON: It's beginning to work now, because it seems that he's bringing clarity and connecting with his base. Who is his base? His base is the labor. There's been a net loss of jobs in every state. Who is his base? It is in fact, the working poor people: 45 million Americans have no health insurance. In Appalachia, a coal miner dies every six hours from black lung disease.

The more he speaks the working poor issues, those who have the job, but now don't have health insurance; those who have a job but can't send their child to college. Those issues are resonating.

GIBSON: Reverend Jackson, you are an astute political observer. And I appreciate what you're saying. But what would you say to the candidate in private? Because once again, this stuff is not working. He has tried it. He has given an honest attempt to try it.

And I would just point out to you that part of his base supported the war, the Joe Lieberman part, and part of it is against it, the Howard Dean part. How does he reconcile those two parts of the base in making a statement about the war?

JACKSON: It may be tactical. In Boston, they took the position: Keep the gloves on and would not lay a finger on the Bush-Cheney record. You couldn't call them names about the war, about the economy, so he used kid gloves in Boston...

GIBSON: And you think that was a mistake?

JACKSON: The Republicans used bare knuckles in New York. And Kerry's bloodied up in that process.

Zell Miller came representing the Bush-Cheney — who is Zell Miller? He was the Chief of Staff for ax-handle swinging Maddox. He's of that school of thought.

Schwarzenegger came to representing immigrants. He's an immigrant with the lotto; doesn't have dirt under his fingernails like immigrants and coal miners and farm workers.

And there was no response; there was no rapid response mechanism. Kerry's campaign getting tighter and smarter now. That might be the difference.

GIBSON: OK. If you were in the room advising on Thursday, John Kerry has about an eight-point gap to close — according to ABC/Washington Post, and eight-point gap to close on Bush on just, "Who do you want?" On other issues like terrorism, the gap is much, much wider.

You're advising him Thursday, what do you tell John Kerry to do?

JACKSON: I say three things. One, a plan on how to get out of the crisis in Iraq. We're now losing lives, money, and no plan, no scheme to get out and we're now increasingly in isolation. Saddam Hussein is out of office, he's not out of power. He's their global martyr; he's now in jail sleeping on a comfortable bed at night. He has first-class medical care, which our soldiers do not have; he has American bodyguards; he's going to have a big court trial at some point in time, whether he lives or dies.

He's been emboldened. And so, Mr. Kerry must make it clear he would go another way.

On the economy, we're seeing loss of jobs in every state.

GIBSON: Wait a minute. Just being critical of what the president does doesn't appear to work by itself. What is the other way?

JACKSON: Well, the alternative, of course, is that we got in by ourselves essentially; we cannot come out by ourselves.

The world has an interest in ending the war in Iraq. The world has an interest in a stable Iraq. But so long as our forces determined that we went in as our war, we get all of the contracts, all of the benefits. Most of our allies will not buy that deal. They've lost respect for this administration.

And so we need a leader who has...

GIBSON: Yes, but what are you going to do when on the eve of the election, the French and Germans say, "Look, even if there's a President Kerry, we're not going help?"

How does that help Kerry?

JACKSON: Well, at some point, they will have to help because the world cannot allow Iraq just to fester. The issue is not just homeland security. On to Mr. Bush's tax cuts, our ports are down around 5 percent, a net loss of police in every city, and now you unleash AK-47s and Uzis on our streets. So really, we're less safe.

Less port security, fewer police and more semiautomatic weapons. These issues resonate with people and of course, they issue an incentive to reinvest in America, rather than divest from America, speaks to the heart of our economic growth again.

GIBSON: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it. We'll see how things work out on Thursday.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

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