Published January 14, 2015
A full transcript of John Kerry's exclusive interview with Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" on May 13, 2004:
ALAN COLMES, HOST: Senator, welcome.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to be here. Thank you.
COLMES: Are you surprised to be the nominee apparent?
KERRY: Pleasantly pleased, but I'm not surprised because I ran for president with the intention of winning, and I knew I could. So I'm happy to be here.
COLMES: What are the one or two issues this election revolves around?
KERRY: Leadership, trust. I believe that there is a more honest brand of leadership to offer America that will put people back to work, that can reduce our deficit, balance the budget, create better jobs for Americans, provide lower cost, affordable, accessible health care to Americans, clearly, fix our schools and do a better job of living up to the promise of No Child Left Behind, and frankly, wage a far more thoughtful and capable war on terror that actually makes America safer and stronger.
I think this administration has misled America, broken its promises and regrettably, not made the world safer. And I will change that.
COLMES: I -- why should Americans believe the world will be safer, will be more protected if John Kerry's president?
KERRY: I ask -- I ask people to simply measure my 35 years of experience and the battles that I've fought in an effort to try to raise America's safety standard and -- and to promote our interests in the world, versus what the Bush administration has done.
I certainly admire the president for standing up and deciding that we needed to take on terror. We all believe that. And I thought he gave a great speech to Congress and the country immediately afterward.
But I think the president has led in a sort of steadily wrong direction, that he's been stubborn in his leadership, not recognizing what you need to do to bring other countries to the table, not recognizing what you need to do to restore America's relationship with allies and friends so that they, too, are sharing the risks of this war on terror.
We shouldn't be alone. The United States isn't alone in having an interest in beating back terror. The huge question is why, if other countries have an interest in not having a failed Iraq -- Middle Eastern countries, European countries -- why are they not at the table?
The reason is this administration has had an arrogant policy that has pushed people aside, that has not invited them to share in the reconstruction, that has not permitted them to share in the decision-making, and so they stand back. And that is not in the interest of our troops. It's not for the interests of our nation.
COLMES: What makes you think that, all of a sudden, if there's a John Kerry presidency France and Russia suddenly will decide they want to participate?
KERRY: They won't suddenly decide it, Alan. That's not what's going to happen. But statesmanship and leadership are the art of persuading people who might otherwise have reservations of their interests.
Europe -- I'm sure you would agree with me, Europe has an interest in not having a failed Iraq at its doorstep. The Arab countries certainly have the primary interest in not having a failed Iraq, a theocracy, a Shia state or any other number of variations. A vacuum with an al Qaeda terrorist launching pad. They all have an interest in not having that happen.
So the huge issue is why are they not more involved in helping to make something change? The reason is this administration has proceeded so unilaterally and so arrogantly, without -- without a sense that they could, in fact, participate in a legitimate decision making way.
The president's had any number of opportunities to bring people to the table. First when we went to the U.N. originally, and then he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He rushed to war so fast that our troops have told stories of not even having the equipment they needed, not having the Humvees with armor, not having the body armor.
And then, they didn't even secure a nuclear plant against looting. They didn't even secure the foreign office against looting. They didn't even secure Baghdad against looting. And it gave power to people to be able to believe that they could get away with some of the things they're doing today.
I think this administration, from the get-go, underestimated, miscalculated and has put American troops at greater risk than they need...
COLMES: Do we ignore -- we go to the U.N. Do we ignore the oil-for-food scandal?
KERRY: I'm not talking about...
COLMES: We're talking about asking them to help us.
KERRY: I'm not talking about primarily going to the U.N. I laid out in Fulton, Missouri, a very specific set of steps which require presidential leadership.
Step No. 1 is for the president to sit down with, talk to, in a very personal way, the leaders of these other countries, to help persuade them, No. 1, that he's prepared to share decision-making and reconstruction, and No. 2, persuade them of their interests in making certain that, even though the United States may have made some mistakes, they all share an interest in the outcome.
And once you have that shared interest, and shared responsibility and decision making, then you can go to the U.N. or to NATO, put together a group of international players who are prepared to recognize our global responsibility, get the U.N. to pass a resolution authorizing what we're doing, so that it has the international stamp of approval. And the U.N. is waiting to do this. Kofi Annan and the U.N. are prepared to do it. And then you can proceed, with international authority, for the transformation of the government.
It's the only way I know to more rapidly transfer legitimacy, to more rapidly reduce the cost to Americans, both in terms of our troops and their risks, and the money that we are paying.
If you're happy paying $200 billion in one year -- any American listening to this thinks this is a good idea, to be spending $200 billion over there, and to have our troops going through what they're doing every day, you go vote for George Bush. I don't think...
COLMES: You're going to support $25 billion of emergency spending. Well, like the $87 billion in the past, will you wait to see how that's going to be funded before you put your final stamp on ...
KERRY: I will obviously. Nobody's going to -- if this money is legitimately urgent for the troops, nobody's going to leave the troops without the things that we need right now. But I want to see exactly what the plan is, and I want to see exactly where the money is going, and how much is, in reality, needed.
But I'm obviously supportive of the troops, as are every other American.
COLMES: What do you think when you see that tape that they keep playing, "I was for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
KERRY: I think it's Republican games of an administration that can't run on its own record. This is unprecedented in American history, that a sitting president, an incumbent, is spending $70 million in destructive, negative, misleading, distorting advertising to try to undo the candidacy of a person in another party not yet even nominated. Unprecedented, Alan.
But the truth is, they can't go out to America and talk about the jobs they've created, because they haven't created them. They're 2.2 million jobs negative. Worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover was president.
They can't go out and talk to America about having given Americans health care, because they've lost -- four million more Americans have lost their health care under George Bush.
He can't go out and talk about fixing our schools, because he's $26 billion shy of his own promise to fund No Child Left Behind.
He can't go out and talk to people about making the environment better, because he's undoing the Clean Air Act, undoing the Clean Water Act, going backwards on forest policy.
So instead of offering America a positive vision, they decide just to attack John Kerry ...
COLMES: I want to get into some of those key issues.
KERRY: ... so that he's not winning. I think Americans are going to see through it, and I'm quite confident that I have a vision for the country that addresses our concerns and needs. And he doesn't.
COLMES: Before we get into some of those key issues, when you see -- back to Iraq for a moment. When you see pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison and you see -- and I don't know if you saw the beheading of Nick Berg in...
KERRY: I mean, I saw the shortened version.
COLMES: What image do you think is more damaging? Which disturbs you more?
KERRY: I think both of them are, no question. Obviously, as an American, as a human being, I'm outraged, incensed at what they did to Nicholas Berg. There's no excuse for it. I don't care what happened in those prisons. An act of terror is an act of terror.
And it shows the emptiness of their -- absence of values. It shows that these are thugs, killers, terrorists, and they deserve everything we can throw at them. And we will.
But that doesn't change the impact of what has happened in that prison through our own efforts, which have put American troops at greater risk, put Americans at greater risk, tarnished all of us and, I think, been a great disservice to the effort that we have been engaged in over there.
I will fight a more effective war on terror, because I would never have thrown out of the door or window the obligations of the Geneva Conventions. Why? Because I know, as a former combatant, that, had I been captured, I would have wanted our moral high ground with respect to those Geneva Conventions to be in place.
And I think what we do is, by not being really -- by being selective and saying they apply here, don't apply there and so forth, we invite others to be equally as selective and it puts American troops in greater danger.
I also think, when you look at what Israel has done for years, where they've faced terror for far longer than we have, that they don't engage in that type of activity. And they specifically decided not to, because they want to keep the moral high ground. And they know it doesn't serve them in the end.
I think that this administration has made an egregious error in the laxity of a command control. And I am convinced this didn't happen just because six or seven people decided to make it happen in a prison. It happened as a matter of what was going on in terms of interrogation and the laxity of command up and down.
COLMES: Today, Donald Rumsfeld went on a surprise trip to Iraq. Do you think that is the right thing to do, or do you think this is just for show?
KERRY: Well, I'm glad that the secretary of defense went there. I think it's always important and good for a secretary to visit with the troops. The troop morale needs, I think, that kind of visit, and I'm glad he went.
But I don't think it changes the dynamics of what America still needs to do to get to the bottom of this, and -- and I don't think it camouflages what has to be done.
COLMES: You spoke with Nick Berg's father, Michael Berg. How's he doing?
KERRY: Well, as you can imagine, I mean, this is a -- I mean, as a parent, if I lost one of my children that way, visibly, learning about it the way he did, I -- I mean, I'd personally give up whatever I'm doing and I'd spend the rest of my life trying to bring those people to justice.
I -- I think he's as pained as he can be. And -- and he feels let down by -- he feels let down by those who should have been protecting his son.
But I think the rest of the conversation is really -- has to be honored as private and I don't think it's appropriate...
COLMES: How do you feel about the fact that there are those veterans who have come out against you? It's got to hurt you personally.
KERRY: No, don't worry about it. Listen, 1971 I made a decision -- actually, in 1969 I made the decision that the war is to be opposed. And when I came back, I found my way of opposing it. And I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I stood up to Richard Nixon. I'm proud that I -- and in fact, I think I was right. And history has judged me to be right.
If you read Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie," if you read Robert McNamara's book, where he admits he knew it was a mistake, if you listen to other who've thought about it retrospectively, I think I stood up and I saved lives.
And I'm sorry that some people want to go back and redebate the war. Dick Cheney and George Bush want to have a debate about the war in Vietnam, I'll meet them anywhere in the country and we can talk about what they were doing, and we'll talk about what I was doing. And I'm happy to do that.
COLMES: One of the issues that you have talked about that I know resonates, because I've talked about it, but I've not heard a lot of Republicans talk about it, is concurrent receipt. The idea that if you have a disability, that it will come out of your pension.
COLMES: Unlike any other civil servant.
KERRY: I think it's wrong. I think it's dead wrong. I think this administration is high on rhetoric, big on wrapping themselves in the American flag and patriotism, and short on delivering the patriot response to those who have served their country.
The V.A. budget has been cut across our country. Tens of thousands of veterans waiting, some of them, months to be able to see a doctor for the first time, just to get prescription drugs signed off on. Ninety thousand veterans waiting to get access to the V.A. Four hundred, 500,000 denied access to the V.A. because they're in a category where they say the V.A. doesn't have the money.
Well, how can the V.A. not have the money for those who served their country, but we have money for tax cuts, over $1 trillion for the wealthiest people in our nation. That's George Bush's priority. That's not my priority. My priority is to keep faith with the people who wore the uniform of our country. And I think that is the first definition of patriotism.
And I'm not going to sit around and watch, you know, while disabled people have their pensions that they earned deducted by the money that they got because they suffered a disability. And they have to pay, effectively, for their own disability. I think it's a betrayal.
COLMES: Donald Rumsfeld has recommended that President Bush veto the defense appropriations bill if it contains the concurrent receipt provision and indeed changes the way we go about concurrent receipt. It would be vetoed.
KERRY: Well, that's their priorities. Those aren't my priorities.
COLMES: Can one percent -- you're talking about the top one percent or so -- of income earners who would be taxed more, not 99 percent -- and I sit here, you know, and night after night I hear them say, misrepresenting your record, "He wants to raise taxes to the American people. He wants to raise taxes for those who make the most amount of money."
But can that one percent, taxes on those, pay for the things you want to do? Will that be enough?
KERRY: It can pay -- it can pay for a lot of them, not all of them, no. And that's not the only place that I look for the additional revenue. But unlike this administration, I've been absolutely direct and honest with the American people in showing where I would get the money to do what I want to do and how we're going to cut the deficit in half over four years.
Now, I have credibility on this, because in 1985, I was one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget in the Congress. In 1993, I was one of the votes that decided we would have a deficit reduction act. In '97, I voted for the compromise.
We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We did this. And I am showing exactly how we can do it again, which George Bush does not show. He has $6 trillion of unfounded programs and initiatives, and he's taking us into the largest deficits in American history.
There's nothing conservative about this administration. I mean, Fox ought to stand up and say, "What's going on here?" Because there's nothing conservative about this administration.
COLMES: Well, I'm on Fox, and I've been saying that every night.
KERRY: But this is radical, to be having an economic policy that drives our deficits as far as this. And the fact is that I have a stronger economic plan for America, which is why people like Warren Buffet and others are supporting what I'm doing. Because they understand it will be stronger for the economy, and people will make more money in the long run.
I also shut loopholes, Alan. We are currently asking American workers to subsidize the loss of their own job. Think about that. You're a company, and you leave Detroit, Michigan, or you leave, you know, Toledo, Ohio, and you go to another country, American workers in Toledo and Detroit are actually subsidizing the loss of their own jobs to that other country, to the tune of about $12 billion a year or more. I'm going to end that.
Now I know we're going to compete abroad. I know we have jobs that are going to go overseas. I understand that. I'm realistic. But I'm not going to ask the American worker to actually favor, in the tax code, that decision to go overseas. I want to favor the jobs that stay here, the companies that stay here.
COLMES: How much can one man, a president, do concerning jobs?
KERRY: Well, you can do a great deal as president, because you set the framework in the trade policy, the framework in the tax policy and the framework in terms of our commitment in the budget, to science, to technology, to investment, so you can create a confidence in America that affects Wall Street. It affects venture capital, and it encourages...
COLMES: Some jobs are coming back. They are claiming jobs are on the rise...
KERRY: Yes, but look at the jobs that are on the rise. Look, first of all, you don't measure a presidency by four months. Right now, only two. But when we get to November, it will be five or so. You don't measure it by that.
On the four years of this presidency, President George Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover who will have lost jobs during his presidency. That's the bottom line.
And the bottom line is also that the American worker, the average wage earner of America, is losing money on their income every year now. Under George Bush, American workers have lost $1,600 on average of income. Under Bill Clinton, they gained $7,100 of income.
Under George Bush, there are four million more Americans who don't have health care today. Under George Bush, you have tuitions that have gone up 28 percent in three years, gasoline prices hitting record highs. Health care prices have gone up 50 percent. Wage earners' money has gone down.
That's not a great equation for our country, my friend. And I intend to change that. And the way you change it is by being fair in your tax code and by creating jobs that create more money.
The jobs that George Bush are creating today are paying on average $9,000, $15,000 less than the jobs he's losing abroad. I don't think that's a very good future, and I think we can do better.
COLMES: When Bill Clinton was running, we heard, "It's the economy, stupid." When George Bush was running, it was "I'm going to bring honor and dignity back to the White House."
How do you define in such a nugget a John Kerry presidency?
KERRY: I'm going to bring truth and responsibility back to the White House, and I'm going to bring influence and respect in the world back to America.
COLMES: Bill Sammon of the "Washington Times" saying that -- he interviewed the president, has got a book out. He said Karl Rove's strategy is to define you as a condescending elitist who's trying to capitalize on your Vietnam experience, who likes taxes, weak on defense and on the wrong side of the culture wars. That is how they are defining you.
How do you break through that?
KERRY: I -- first of all, let me just say about that, I think that's pathetic. I think it's unbelievable that the Karl Rove crowd wants to just reduce a presidential race to that kind of distortion. And I don't think Americans are going to stand for it.
You know, I'm a former law enforcement officer who's put people in prison for the rest of their life. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. I have pushed for, voted for and fought for deficit reduction and balanced budgets. I voted for welfare reform to change the culture of welfare in America. I've helped push for education reform in America and change it.
I'm a hunter and a fisherman. I've been a hunter since I was 12 years old.
I'm not going to get pushed around by these people on subjects about which all they can see is exploitation and the lowest common denominator of American politics. The people I know in America want serious solutions to real problems.
This administration has had four years to provide solutions to any number of problems. They've done nothing about health care nationally, fundamentally. This prescription drug bill hurts seniors and helps the drug companies.
Beyond that, they've broken the promise of education. They've broken the promise on the environment. They've lost jobs nationally. They have a huge deficit. They've broken the promise of Social Security not digging into it.
I mean, you go down the trail of broken promises, this is the biggest say one thing, do another crowd in history.
Now, George Bush doesn't have a record to run on. He has a record to run away from. So Karl Rove has decided the only way he can win is to try to attack John Kerry. I think the American people want something better. I think they're looking for something more, and I'm going to restore truth and responsibility to the White House. And I'm going to fight a more effective war on terror that actually makes America safer.
COLMES: They've had a terrible few months. We've had these horrible images coming out of Iraq. We've had report after report showing no WMD's, not that we may not find them some day. His approval rating -- the president's, that is -- is at the lowest ever.
Should you be breaking through a little more significantly in the polls at this point?
KERRY: Polls are not...
COLMES: Or do you not pay attention to that stuff at all?
KERRY: But I didn't pay attention to it when everybody said I was 30 points down, if you recall. And I won.
Now, as of today's poll, I saw I'm five points up over the president, in the Pew poll, as of today.
I don't place a lot of stock in the polls, as I've said to you. But I'll tell you this, that as the next five and a half months unfolds, Americans are going to hear a positive vision from me about how we can fix our country, how we reduce the deficit, how we provide health care that's affordable and accessible to all Americans, how we can make our streets safer, put cops back on the streets rather than cut them, the way this administration is.
This administration has made life miserable for people trying to do homeland security. Firefighters and firehouses across America are understaffed. Chemical plants and nuclear plants are yet to be strengthened and properly guarded with plans. I think we can do a better job of defending America.
And I think if all they can do is attack me, have at it. They spent $70 million in seven weeks in the most unprecedented attack in American political history. Began at the earliest moment in American political history by an incumbent president for the first time in American history against a person not yet even nominated by the party. It is unprecedented.
And yet today, we're ahead in the polls. I think we're doing just fine. And I intend to continue to do just fine.
COLMES: When will you announce your vice president choice? Before the convention?
KERRY: Right before the convention.
COLMES: Do you know who it is yet?
KERRY: Before the convention.
COLMES: You might know something you're not telling us?
KERRY: Before the convention.
COLMES: All right. What are the criteria for a vice president?
KERRY: I'm not going to go into the public process of that. When I choose and make that announcement publicly, I'll obviously describe what I have found and what I think the nation needs. But I'm going to keep this as personal and as private a process as I can.
COLMES: You know that Bill Cohen served in the Clinton administration, a Republican. Norm Mineta was kept on in this administration. Would you keep anybody from the Clinton cabinet?
KERRY: From the Clinton?
COLMES: I mean, excuse me. From the Bush 43 administration?
KERRY: I don't think you have to keep people in order to be bipartisan, but I can guarantee you this. I will reach across the aisle. I will look for Republicans, independents, people of quality to serve in my administration in whatever ability possible. And I think we need more than tokenism in bipartisanship.
President Bush said he was a uniter. The one entity he's united in America is the Democratic Party. The country itself is more divided than ever.
And I have never, in all the years I've been in the United States Senate seen a Congress as dysfunctional, as unproductive, as partisan and as divided as this one is. And I think it is partly because of the absence of presidential leadership to actually bring people together to find the common ground.
I know how to do that. I've done it, and I'm going to do it as president.
COLMES: Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time today.
KERRY: Glad to be with you. Thank you very much.
COLMES: Thank you.