Sen. John Kerry 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Moments ago, Senator John Kerry went "On the Record" about Senator Specter's party switch. President Obama's first 100 days in office, and Senator Kerry's job as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Is it what you expected?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR: Well, I have been on it for 26 years. So, the answer is yes, it's pretty much what I expected, but it's fun. It's challenging and it's interesting. It's a lot of work right now because there are a lot of tough issues.

VAN SUSTEREN: And one of the toughest issues, of course, is Pakistan. What is the White House plan or strategy for Pakistan, and then I'm going to ask whether you agree?

KERRY: Well, the White House has been reevaluating both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and appropriately, I might add. And I think they are appropriately making the judgment that this is a fight that the Pakistanis have to engage in. This is not our battle in the sense. Pakistan is going to determine -- the outcome is going to be determined by the Pakistanis themselves making a choice about whether or not they are going to stand up to the Taliban and assert their democratic values. I believe they will. I think they are. And I think the White House is trying to figure out the best ways in which to empower them to do that. It can't be an American-driven policy. It can't have an American imprint or footprint. This really has to be homegrown, and that's what we're really working with the Pakistanis to achieve.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it makes a big difference to us. It's not just so we can say, "Well, whatever the Pakistanis want to do, because it's not quite that simple, because we really do care and it does matter. And we got India sitting next hour.

KERRY: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And there has been some saber rattling there. So, we ...

KERRY: Well ...

VAN SUSTEREN: We must be directing -- I mean, maybe -- we must be doing something to push at one direction.

KERRY: In the end, Greta, we're not going to send troops by any significant numbers of any kind to Pakistan. We may have some people training or helping if that's something they decide they want. This is a country with a history and with an ability to be able to deliver -- in some cases more rapidly than others. They now need to get coordinated. They have a new civilian government. They have had a military leader for the last eight years or so. They went to the polls. They elected this leader. He's only had a short period of time under very difficult economic circumstances to really get things moving. Our hope is that they are now getting on the track and beginning to make the commitments necessary to win back their own country.

VAN SUSTEREN: I certainly have the same hopes, and I know our country has that hope, and I know we'd like to see the president do very well. But when you read in the headlines over the past couple of weeks, it just doesn't seem to be going in that direction. It seems much more ominous in our sort of sense of what we'd like to see.

KERRY: It has been very unsettling to read the stories we have been reading on the last weeks. I was just over there a couple of weeks ago. Almost two days after I traveled over one road, that was the road where the Taliban cut it off at one point and took yet another stronghold. But I believe the military is now moving to push back. I believe the government and its public officials are coming out of some denial and beginning to really embrace the notion that they've got to make the difference here. And I think over time, you are going to see a transition. That's certainly what we're working towards and that's what we need.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, when you look at the difficulty that their government faces right now, is that the government, after 9/11, when it, you know, when it was, quote, "on our side," it -- a lot of Islamic extremists got very unhappy with their government. The Islamic extremists seem to have been gaining some steam lately. Every time there is a push back from the government against the Islamic extremists, it looks like they are in our back pocket and that we are somehow making them as puppets. So, I don't -- I don't know how their government convinces its people to back what it once. I mean, it seems to only to create bigger problems for them.

KERRY: If they are left in a place where their efforts are viewed as being our efforts, we're all in trouble. We can't tell them what to do. We can't be viewed as orchestrating this in some way. This really has to be a plan that is based on our ability to assist them to do what they decide they want to do and need to do. And, yes, we have mutual interests. And, yes, we clearly don't want radical extremists and religious fanatics taking over nuclear weapons. I mean, obviously, we all have an interest in that. But I don't think that's about to happen right now, and I think there is time here that the government of Pakistan itself to assert its own vision of the country and to put those plans in place. And that's what we need.

VAN SUSTEREN: I do not mean to suggest that any remote idea how to answer this, to solve this. It just seems that we're -- that right now, we're sort of impotent. That we stand -- that we stand by and say, "We hope for the best." We can't have our fingerprints on it. We can't be involved in this because that creates a bigger problem. So, when I see the -- you know, the Taliban sort of moving in and going towards the capital, it's just -- it's hard for me to have a sense, like, well, we are going to hope for the best.

KERRY: Well, that's not what we're doing. We're not just sitting here hoping for the best. That would be -- that would be pretty futile and it would be silly and it would be irresponsible. That's not what I think we are doing. What we're doing .

VAN SUSTEREN: And I didn't mean to suggest that. I'm just ...


KERRY: No, no. I know exactly what you're saying. I know exactly what you're saying, and I don't take it, to force (ph) the way. But I'm just saying to you, we are trying to provide assistance to Pakistan so that the Pakistanis themselves can undertake this effort. They need help. They need economic assistance. They need the ability to be able to deliver to their citizens. No government can win the support of its people if it isn't meeting the needs of its people. The government of Pakistan has literally been incapable of meeting those needs in many cases, for lack of money, for extraordinary economic crisis that it faces, for lack of leadership in some cases. Now, it has to step up and do that, and a lot of other people need to help to do it with them.

That's why there was a donors' conference in Tokyo recently, where people pledged some $4 billion to Pakistan in order to empower them to be able to go out and do this. But here is what's key -- this support that we want to give them on behalf of the American people cannot go to them as support for a particular government, as it was with the General Musharraf. It has to go in a way that the Pakistani people are aware that this is for them, that is going into the programs, whether it's a health care program or a children's program or a school or an energy plant or something. It's going to make a difference to the lives of Pakistanis, and we want the government to be able to deliver that to the people. That is in our interest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that exactly what he White House -- are you on the same page with the White House on this or do you differ?

KERRY: On that, we are very much on the same page.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any place where you differ on Pakistan and how we deal with Pakistan from the White House?

KERRY: I think the key -- I don't think there are great differences. I think the key is that we need to get to the implementation faster. We need to get this money over there. We need to get emergency assistance over there. And we also, I think, need to encourage -- we need to work more closely with the Pakistanis day to day to help them be able to implement this vision of how they are going to make a difference to the lives of their citizens.


VAN SUSTEREN: Next, Senator Kerry on the Senator Specter's party switch. Did Senator Kerry know this political bombshell was coming? More with Senator Kerry -- Next.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next: More with Senator John Kerry. But first, let's go to our New York newsroom where Ainsley Earhardt is standing by with the other headlines.

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, Greta. Thank you. Italian carmaker, Fiat, is reportedly speeding to Chrysler's rescue. The two companies are expected to sign paperwork tomorrow to make this all official. The merger is part of a massive restructuring plan, and Chrysler has to unveil the proposal by tomorrow to qualify for more bailout money. The restructuring effort includes a deal with Chrysler's largest bondholders saddling at $7 billion debt. In addition, the automaker has a tentative new labor pact with union leaders. Also, a ray of hope in the country's financial crisis is coming in a Commerce Department report. Consumer spending was apparently up 2.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That's the biggest increase in two years. Americans are buying more big ticket items like furniture and appliances. Consumer spending accounts for close to 70 percent of our economy.

I'm Ainsley Earhardt, we now return to "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."

VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing now with Senator John Kerry.


VAN SUSTEREN: So, you have a member of your party, Arlen Specter.

KERRY: Hooray!


KERRY: We do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you know it was coming?

KERRY: No. Well, all of us have certainly hoped that, you know, he might, one day, make that decision as we do about a couple of others. There are several others. But we are delighted, obviously. Arlen Specter coming over will make a difference and not in a partisan way. Arlen is going to maintain the independent Arlen Specter that he has. But he is going to be able to help, I hope, to set the agenda of the country that some people around here have been willing to say no to every time we turn around and try to do anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: First 100 days, what do you think?

KERRY: I think President Obama has really done a superb job. It's a very tough job. He has moved into it almost seamlessly. He's been graceful under enormous pressure, and he is moving the country in the right direction. He's made big choices about our budget, about the banking system, about housing, about Pakistan, Afghanistan. He's engaged now with other countries. It's wonderful to see a president to travel abroad and be well- received and liked by people around the world. That helps us as Americans to achieve our agenda in international basis. And here at home, we're embarked on health care reform. We have major initiatives under way. We've passed children's health care. We've put a stimulus into the economy, which will have an impact on alternative and renewable energy. I'm very excited. I think that we are moving down a very interesting road and it's a fun time to be in public life.

VAN SUSTEREN: Afghanistan, the headlines aren't particularly attractive. Afghanistan, it looks like it's going more grim everyday. We're going to move -- our plan is to pull troops out of Iraq. I assume to sort of supplement what's going on in Afghanistan. Are we putting our troops at risk that we're leaving behind in Iraq? Because there's been an increase in violence when we move them to Afghanistan. And if we don't move them to Afghanistan, what are we going to do about Afghanistan?

KERRY: Afghanistan is a different kind of challenge to some degree from Pakistan. You have less government structure in Afghanistan. You have less centralized government capacity in Afghanistan. You don't have a judiciary in Afghanistan as you do in Pakistan. They haven't had a democratic tradition in Afghanistan the way they have -- start and stop -- but they have had in Pakistan. So, you have an institutional developmental difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But in Afghanistan, what you do have is a centuries-old tribal tradition. And the truth is, that our policy up until now has been Kabul-focused, on the central government in a place where it doesn't really exist. And we have not done what we need to do to build up the power of those tribal leaders to be able to provide for their people. They do not want the Taliban. But in the absence of security and in the absence of the ability to provide a job or some other, you know, plus to a citizen, they have been driven, in a sense, to the Taliban. That, I think, has the capacity to change. And I think General Petraeus -- the Obama administration has reviewed this very carefully. If there's any chance of making Afghanistan work, it is to go down this road of empowering local communities and providing this kind of security and allowing them to take over again for themselves.

VAN SUSTEREN: You say "if." If it doesn't work, what happens?

KERRY: Well, if it doesn't work, Greta, we are all in trouble. We're all in trouble if it doesn't work today. Let's say you decided today it doesn't work. Are you going to leave Afghanistan so Usama bin Laden can walk back in and retake a stronghold and re -- and continue unfettered?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not suggesting -- I'm not suggesting ...


KERRY: I'm just saying this is the choice.


KERRY: It's a very difficult, hard, complex choice that America has been given by these circumstances. The fact is, that the last eight years, I think -- or not last eight years, seven years now, since 2001, were wasted unfortunately in Afghanistan. The Bush administration turned its focus away from the place that most of us thought the principal focus ought to be.

VAN SUSTEREN: But given, and I ...

KERRY: And drove it off to Iraq. Now, we're trying to make up for that, and we are trying to make up for it having lost a lot of the support of the Afghan people in the meantime. So ...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it too late -- I guess what I'm saying is that -- I mean, you know, rather than rehashing where we've been or how we got ...

KERRY: Well, it's important to understand it because that's the only way. You got to know the road you've traveled to know the road you want to go down.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, but if we...

KERRY: And you have to make some judgments about, OK, are we just in an impossible situation or are we in this situation because mistakes were made and they can be undone now? Now, I think most people . ...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that's where you said the "if" and that's what -- that's what caught my attention.

KERRY: Well, there is an "if." Trust me. There's an "if."

VAN SUSTEREN: But, I mean, it's when I hear you say "if," I mean, naturally, my radar goes up because I'm sort of hoping this will get solved. And so, when I hear the "if," that causes great concern and I know that we want to take troops out of Iraq.

KERRY: I cannot sit here and tell you to a certainty that this is going to work. This has been made very, very difficult by the inattention and mistakes of the last seven years, and it begins with the extraordinary, the unbelievable lack of strategy to have closed the door on Usama bin Laden when he was trapped at Tora Bora.

VAN SUSTEREN: I got -- I got that. But now, we got this -- I got that. But the thing is that we have this situation now and it's a very dangerous to make.

KERRY: And the best we can do is the best we can do with this situation right now. I believe and I think the administration believes, I think General Petraeus believes, our new ambassador, Eikenberry, he was general there for a number of years, believes that the best way to now move forward now is to try to provide sufficient security to local communities so the local communities can get their own stronghold recreated, and then, while you are training the Afghan national army and police, you put them in place and you bring American troops home. That is the best hope for how you're going to resolve this. Not for us to plan to stay there, but for us to plan to transfer the responsibility to the people who ought to be responsible for it in the first place.


Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.