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Hannity

Photo of Kerry Reignites Old Controversy

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", May 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We now turn to the campaign trail, where a photo of Senator Kerry has reignited an old controversy.

This photograph, taken in April of 1985 when Senator Kerry visited Managua, Nicaragua. Some conservatives are accusing the presidential candidate of cozying up to communists. John Kerry can be seen on the left. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is in the middle. And on the right the president of Nicaragua and the leader of the communist Sandinistas, Daniel Ortega.

Kerry and Harkin were visiting Managua while Congress was considering an aid package to the Nicaraguan Contras, who were trying to overthrow the communist Sandinista regime that had seized power in 1979.

At the time of the visit, the Reagan administration, namely Secretary of State George Shultz, criticized Kerry and Harkin for the trip and questioned whether or not they were acting in the country's best interests.

Almost 20 years later, the photo has resurfaced, leading to new questions about Kerry's trip to Central America. We'll get the Kerry campaign's response to this story in a few minutes.

But first, joining us now, the editor of the "National Review," which ran a story about this last week, Fox News political analyst Rich Lowry.

Does it bother you as much as a picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hand with Saddam Hussein, to whom tilted -- we have tilted his way in the Iran-Iraq war and helped him get some materials?

Does this bother you that much?

RICH LOWRY, "NATIONAL REVIEW": It bothers me much more.

COLMES: Why is that?

LOWRY: We tilted towards Saddam for understandable reasons, because Saddam was confronting another evil regime. And unfortunately, the world is a nasty place and sometimes you have to make tough choices. And we did in the 1980s.

COLMES: Why does this bother you more? What's wrong with this?

LOWRY: This bothers me because John Kerry let himself get played like a fool by Daniel Ortega, the communist dictator of Nicaragua.

At the time, there was a huge debate over Reagan's foreign policy. Reagan's policy was we were going to pressure these communist insurgencies and regimes in Latin America every way we can, militarily and diplomatically.

John Kerry opposed that policy every step of the way, and that policy, that Reagan policy, has created a Democratic reform in Latin America. That's one of the foremost...

COLMES: All that John Kerry did, along with Tom Harkin, was to go there and try to prevent further bloodshed in what was a civil war.

And I asked you what's more egregious, this ticket of John Kerry with Daniel Ortega or illegally sending money to the Contras and raising that money by selling arms to Iran.

You don't have a problem with that?

LOWRY: Sure. I mean, Iran-contra, there were a lot of wrong things there. But...

COLMES: Which is the more egregious offense here?

LOWRY: The policy dispute is do you trust a communist dictatorship or not? John Kerry's answer is yes, we do.

COLMES: That's not what John Kerry's answer is.

LOWRY: Yes, it was, Alan. Look at the record. They gave him a two- page document saying we're a nonaligned country. We have nothing to do with the Soviets. We're going to respect civil liberties.

Weeks later Ortega is off to the Soviet Union to visit Moscow.

COLMES: What John Kerry did was go there, with Tom Harkin, in an attempt to try to prevent further bloodshed. To then say that he trusts them, you know, was in love with them, shaking his hands -- to me, this is almost like red baiting.

You show this picture and say...

LOWRY: I knew this debate was going to come up.

COLMES: "Oh, my God. There's John Kerry 18 years ago, talking to a commie. How about that?"

LOWRY: Alan, I'm not saying that John Kerry is a red. I'm saying he was naive and wrong about Latin America in ways that he has been naive and wrong about American foreign policy for 20 years.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I want to stay on this then, because I think it's a pattern of being on the wrong side of history is what we're really talking about.

I don't so much have the problem with the picture. It's just the context. We're five days outside of a vote.

The Contras were freedom fighters, standing up to the oppressive Soviet satellite state in Nicaragua at the time. Isn't that what the real story here is?

LOWRY: That's absolutely right. And Sean, you can see some similarities to what's going on today in the Middle East.

If you look at Latin America in the late 1970's and early 1980's. You see authoritarian regimes, dictatorships all over the region. And you see violence all over the place.

Reagan says, you know what, we're not going to accept that reality. We're going to try hard to change it. And people like John Kerry said no, no, no; just accept it the way it is.

HANNITY: There's a line that I found, as I went back and I was looking at what Kerry said. And he says, "I'm willing to take the risk and the effort to put back the good faith of the Sandinistas."

He has this level of being naive that is frankly scaring me.

Similarly, when Reagan was winning the Cold War, John Kerry wanted a nuclear freeze. And four years later he didn't vote for the death penalty for terrorists who kill Americans.

Now we see his flip-flopping positions on Iraq. I mean, he's consistently wrong and consistently is on the wrong side of history, is what is scary here.

LOWRY: It's a clear pattern. Look at what he was saying during the Latin America debate.

He was saying the U.S. is too belligerent. The U.S. is too stubborn. The U.S. is alienating the world. Because the U.S. was defending our interests and trying to push back against a dictatorship. That's exactly the same thing he said about the first Bush administration and the Persian Gulf War, and you hear the same rhetoric today.

HANNITY: So he went to meet Ortega five days before this crucial vote. It would have given $14 million to the freedom fighters.

LOWRY: Correct.

HANNITY: The Contra rebels.

LOWRY: Correct.

HANNITY: Now, that day -- Reagan lost that vote at that time.

The next day Daniel Ortega, who promised to force the Soviet and Cuban advisers out of the country, what did he do?

He got on a plane to go to Moscow to get a $200 million loan.

LOWRY: And Sean, this is one of the great embarrassments to the congressional Democrats in the 1980's. They voted against Contra aid based on the good faith of this communist dictator. He pulled the rug out from under them.

And amazingly enough they reversed themselves and voted in favor of the aid. And that military and diplomatic pressure on Ortega is what ended up toppling that regime.

HANNITY: You know what's amazing, too, he actually was quoting, you know, John Lennon, we've got to give peace a chance. I mean, this was the line that John Kerry was going with.

We've got to meet with the Soviet satellite leaders in Nicaragua and beg them to be good people, even though they were slaughtering a lot of innocent people at the time.

LOWRY: And Sean, we all love peace. We all prefer peace. But the fact is there are nasty actors in the world who understand nothing other than force, and sometimes you have to use military pressure.

HANNITY: Isn't this the pattern of John Kerry? Can you think of an instance on national security issues where he's been right?

LOWRY: He was in favor of some of the Clinton interventions in the Balkans in the 1990's.

But, again, liberals were in favor of those because they are humanitarian interventions. They didn't have much to do with the U.S. national interest.

But when it comes to a hard question of the U.S. protecting its national security through military means, he tends to be wrong almost 100 percent of the time.

COLMES: We continue to debate on the show, whether going into Iraq was really for national security.

Thank you very much for being with us.

LOWRY: Thanks, Alan.

COLMES: Coming up next, the Kerry campaign will give us their response to the controversy surrounding this photo.

(NEWSBREAK)

HANNITY: More on Senator Kerry's controversial trip to Managua, Nicaragua. We're joined by former Kerry staffer, Jonathan Winer, who worked for Senator Kerry in 1995.

Jonathan, thanks for being with us.

John Kerry, five days outside of this very important vote for the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, the Contra rebels, goes to meet with Daniel Ortego and says I'm willing to take the risk to put -- test the good faith of the Sandinistas.

He leads the effort. He wins. His side wins the vote. Reagan's side loses.

And then Daniel ... who had promised to force Soviet and Cuban advisers out of Nicaragua, the next day is on a flight to the Soviet Union to get a $200 million loan.

Wasn't that the greatest debacles -- mistakes in the history of the United States?

JONATHAN WINER, FORMER KERRY AIDE: Well, he certainly wasn't able to stop the Contra war against the Sandinistas. And so the war continued. And the Nicaraguan government continued not to be able to function.

And terrorists and drug traffickers wound continuing to being able to infiltrate much of Central America and caused a lot of human damage: suffering, pain, misery, violence and death. So it wasn't just...

HANNITY: What I'm questioning here is John Kerry's judgment. And on a lot of different issues.

You see, those of us that were conservative, we understood the connection between Ortega and the former Soviet Union and how dangerous it would be to have a beach front right close to the United States. We understood it fundamentally. He didn't clearly understand that.

While Reagan was fighting and winning the Cold War, John Kerry was fighting for a nuclear freeze. Wrong side of history.

He wouldn't vote for the death penalty when he had a chance, for terrorists who kill Americans.

And now with all the flip-flopping on Iraq, I don't think he has wise judgment on international affairs.

WINER: Our view was that that Ronald Reagan had very bad judgment, was very naive about the Contras, who he referred to as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.

But our Founding Fathers didn't smuggle drugs; they didn't work with terrorists. They didn't take money from Saudi Arabia.

HANNITY: This is silly extreme left wing propaganda you're spewing.

WINER: Excuse me. The CIA's inspector general, and you can go online and read the report, concluded that, in fact, drug traffickers widely...

HANNITY: Why would we -- forget about that for just a second. I don't want to get distracted. Why would we...

WINER: I think it goes to the core of it.

HANNITY: Why would -- why would John Kerry believe the guy that was propped up by the Soviets?

Why won't you acknowledge that he wanted to believe a known liar, somebody who was known for human rights abuses, Daniel Ortega was?

WINER: He went there, he led the effort against the vote, and the next day he was betrayed.

But conservatives knew this would happen. John Kerry didn't. He seems to be enthralled by just being in the presence of President Ortega.

WINER: No, what I think what he was trying to do was do fact-finding. Because what John Kerry has found out is sometimes people in Washington with all their pieces of paper don't actually know what's going on in the field. And you have to go out of Washington to find out what's going on, because the facts matter.

What he was trying to do -- please let me...

COLMES: What are we exactly doing here? This was a fact-finding mission, he wanted to bring an end to violence. That's what he was really trying to do here.

WINER: He was trying to bring an end to violence and he was providing an opportunity for the Reagan administration to negotiate. Now, he didn't take that opportunity. They didn't want that opportunity.

COLMES: And let's talk about, you know, if we're going to talk about the wrong side of history, as you started to point out, the Contras, with whom the Reagan administration were in cahoots.

Let's talk about who we were supporting. I should say the conservatives, and the Reagan administration, who they wanted to support in this effort, who they were putting their money behind. Let's look at those people.

WINER: Well, we did look at those people. John Kerry followed that trip with a two-year investigation of what the Contras were doing.

He found out that they were getting weapons from people Monsour al- Qazar, who's a Middle Eastern terrorist associated with Syria. He found out, ultimately, that they were getting funds from the Iranian government.

COLMES: Right.

WINER: And he found out that traffickers had permeated the movement. Ten years later, the CIA inspector general found that it was all true, one John often terrorist associated with the Syrians.

COLMES: And we had a little thing called the Contra scandal, the import-export act, and we have conservatives in this case looking to try to take the high moral ground, as if John Kerry didn't know what he was doing.

When, indeed, look what happened on their side of things and the laws that were violated in the Iran-Contra scandal, to support the group you had just talked about?

WINER: When you facilitate drug trafficking, that's not moral clarity, is it?

COLMES: So to me, this just part of a some co-host against John Kerry.

WINER: And again, we has that little thing called the Iran-Contra scandal? I knows on violations of the Bolton amendments. All that was that famous ... the right.

And what happened, some conservatives both, and Donald Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein when they're shaking hands in Iraq back a couple of decades ago, as we were supporting Iraq, and indeed, giving permission for Iraq to go build certain weapons, which later came back to haunt us, correct?

WINER: That's correct. John Kerry didn't shake hands or give us weapons or provide weapons or arms or help to Saddam Hussein.

That's for sure. Our secretary of Defense did.

COLMES: You know, to me this is tantamount to red baiting, would you agree?

WINER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: The idea that, you know, Ortega, who's now out of power, still living, apparently, in Nicaragua, they're trying to tie Kerry to a communist. That is really what's going on here.

WINER: Sure it is.

HANNITY: What's going is we're looking at his record, his judgment, the decisions he's made, and I in this case, I argue he made the wrong decision.

But thank you for being with us.

WINER: You're welcome.

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