Senator Kerry's Global Test

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Oct. 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the PERSONAL STORY segment tonight, as we told you in the TALKING POINTS memo, John Kerry may have made a big mistake by using the words "global test" when talking about a preemptive military strike during the war on terror.

Also, my brand new column on BillO', which also runs in hundreds of newspapers across the country, like the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which ran it today, says that Mr. Kerry's vision for getting Europeans to help the USA is kind of problematic. Joining us now from Washington is Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a foreign affairs adviser to Senator Kerry and next secretary of state, probably, if the senator wins the presidency.

All right, here's my problem. Senator Kerry is going down the internationalist road, which traditionally has not been a winner for Americans. He's saying, look, if we're going to do these preemptives, we're going to have to rally other countries to help us. And Bush is saying the preemptive comes first, then we'll convince. Do you see Kerry's theory as being practical?

FMR. AMBASSADOR RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, I don't think that's really what John Kerry's saying, but he is an internationalist. To that charge, he and his advisers will all proudly plead guilty. That's the great tradition from Franklin Roosevelt right through to the end of Bill Clinton's term, and it includes Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, and Nixon, and Ford, and Eisenhower, and all the other Republicans.

You cannot lead unless people follow you, and leadership is more than just asserting your position and saying you're either with us or against us. That makes good television rhetoric, it's a good sound bite. But in truth, leadership means building coalitions.

Now, John Kerry is under no illusions that if he's elected president on January 21 of next year, Jacques Chirac (search) of France is going to call him up and say, "How many divisions do I send to Iraq?" He knows that won't happen, and the French and Germans have made clear they can't do that and won't do that anyway. But there's a lot more to the war on terror than that, and he will build a strong coalition.

Why do I know this, Bill? I know this because I've been in 16 or 17 countries this year, spoken to foreign leaders in almost every one of them, and a lot of leaders who came to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. And they understand and want to work with those people who want to work with them to build coalitions.

O'REILLY: I am skeptical, not of your experience and your chats, but I think people have a tendency to tell people what they want to hear. I wrote today in my column that we are never going to get the support of Chirac and Schroeder, in particular, because they play to their left-wing base inside their own countries. And the media in Europe is very anti- Bush, just as they were anti-Ronald Reagan. You remember that, Ambassador. They were very anti-Ronald Reagan because he was upping the defense budget and wanted all the missile shields and all of that.

So I don't believe that Schroeder and Chirac will ever cooperate fully with the United States, because they want to pander to their left-wing base, am I wrong?

HOLBROOKE: Well, Jacques Chirac would certainly be surprised to find out he's a leftist. He is a right of center Gaullist remnant, and he has fought the socialists and defeated them in the elections. So I think we have to be careful about left and right. What you have in France is a unique kind of French politics, which has always been a kind of a pain in a certain part of the American posterior.

But we have to be able to work with France as part of Europe. We did it in Bosnia. They were a huge pain, Bill. But we got them into our coalitions in the Balkans. In fact, they're willing to do certain things. I'm not here to defend France. I've had terrible arguments with them, and they've attacked me regularly during the Bosnia period.

But I think it's about American leadership. And what you saw last night in Miami — and I was down there with you, although I've now escaped spin alley, and you're still trapped down there — what I saw down in Miami last night was the first presidential debate in American history during a war.

Jim Lehrer did an excellent job of focusing the attention on Iraq. And two different visions of how to succeed were presented. Both Bush and Kerry want to win, but they have different methods and different goals.

O'REILLY: No, I agree with you on that. Let me ask you about this. Our time is limited, which is why I have to cut you off, and I don't want to do that. You're a smart guy. I thought that Kerry was weak on the Korean situation, and I'll tell you why. If I were Bush, I would have hammered him on it hard. I would have said, "You know, Senator, President Clinton (search) tried the bilateral talks, he tried, in good faith, and made a deal with this terrible North Korean dictator, and they hosed him, and they lied. And you want to go right back to the same kind, the same guy, and give him another chance to lie to us. Come on."

And that's what I would have said to him if I were President Bush.

HOLBROOKE: Well, that's very interesting you say that, Bill, because I was going to say that North Korea was one of the real points on which Kerry scored against Bush. And I would take the same incident you just described and flip it. The fact is this. Since President Bush became president, the North Koreans have gone from, at most, one nuclear device to, according to the intelligence community — and we know they're never wrong — to about six or eight nuclear devices.

The administration managed to get Six-Party Talks going under Chinese sponsorship, talks which we all support. But what John Kerry says is let's have, in addition to that, direct talks with North Korea. Now, President Bush last night attacked that vigorously. But the fact is that the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Russians and the Chinese — that is, the other powers of the Six Party Talks — all want us to do it.

And you know that in any diplomatic negotiation, you have the theater of the large meetings, as we had in Dayton.

O'REILLY: We have to put it in perspective. They want us to do it because they don't want to get their hands dirty. And you know as well as I do, Mr. Ambassador, they wouldn't have the six nukes if the Clinton administration hadn't made the deal that allowed them to get the stuff in the first place. Go ahead.

HOLBROOKE: I really don't agree with that about the 1994 agreement. But I do agree that we have to have better verification. Now, look, on the bilateral talks, everybody wants us to have the talks. And I was surprised President Bush said was he said last night. His facts were somewhat wrong.

And I stress again, everyone is ready for these bilateral talks. Who, other than the U.S., can talk to Pyongyang? It's the same thing as we have in the Balkans.

O'REILLY: The Chinese can talk to them. The Chinese are right on his border, and they can tell him, "You either do it or you don't get any food, period."

HOLBROOKE: Wait a second. President Bush last night, on China/North Korea, said something that blew my mind. He said the Chinese have more influence with North Korea, let them do it. Well, the Chinese are a communist country. North Korea's a communist country. The two countries are long term communist allies.

You think that Beijing is going to carry our water against North Korea? Not a chance.

O'REILLY: Our water? It's their water, Mr. Ambassador. If those kooks in North Korea do anything, the Chinese economy goes down the drain. And that's why China has to do it. And look, you're more sophisticated in this than I am, but I'll tell you what, that North Korean dictator snookered and lied to Clinton, and there's no reason he wouldn't do it again. But I'll give you the last word on it.

HOLBROOKE: You know, Bill, we have 40,000 American troops there. We had 50,000 American deaths in the Korean War to defend South Korea. We have a vital national security stake. The South Koreans, our allies for over 50 years, want us to talk directly to North Korea. The Chinese provide the site. We do it in the corridors. That's leadership, that's diplomacy. And John Kerry hit a homerun on that one.

O'REILLY: Well, not with me.

HOLBROOKE: Well, you and I have an honest disagreement here.

O'REILLY: That's absolutely right, and it's always a fun discussion, and we appreciate you coming on very much.

HOLBROOKE: My pleasure.

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