Secondly, it is significant that there is a vote in Iraq. But no one in the United States or in the world-- and I'm confident of what the world response will be. No one in the United States should try to overhype this election. This election is a sort of demarcation point, and what really counts now is the effort to have a legitimate political reconciliation, and it's going to take a massive diplomatic effort and a much more significant outreach to the international community than this administration has been willing to engage in. Absent that, we will not be successful in Iraq.(emphasis added).
Kerry, who has already attempted to ruin the US effort in a number of ways (bad mouthing the effort during the election, failing to fund our troops, poor-mouthing the effort during a recent visit) . Up to his old tricks, Kerry manages to contradict himself in the space of two questions.
RUSSERT: Do you believe that Iraq is less a terrorist threat to the United States now than it was two years ago?
SEN. KERRY: No, it's more. And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was two and a half years ago. ...
MR. RUSSERT: Is the United States safer with the newly elected Iraqi government than we would have been with Saddam Hussein?
SEN. KERRY: Sure. And I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone, and I've said that a hundred times. ...
MR. RUSSERT: Specifically, do you agree with Senator Kennedy that 12,000 American troops should leave at once?
SEN. KERRY: No.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe there should be a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops?
SEN. KERRY: No.
MR. RUSSERT: What would you do?
SEN. KERRY: I understand exactly what Senator Kennedy is saying, and I agree with Senator Kennedy's perceptions of the problem and of how you deal with it.... I agree with Senator Kennedy that we have become the target and part of the problem today, if not the problem. ...
What Iraq is after this is important to the world. It cannot be a haven for terrorism. It cannot be a completely failed state. Now, you'll notice the administration has backed off significantly of its own high goals of full democratization and so forth, and I don't think you're going to hear them pushing that. There are a lot of conservatives, neo-cons and others in Washington debating now sort of what the modality of withdrawal ought to be.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you have any information that the Bush administration is privately requesting the new Iraqi government to ask us to leave?
SEN. KERRY: No.
MR. RUSSERT: You just suppose that may be happening.
SEN. KERRY: I think that over a period of time, this administration is going to face the reality of Iraq which is that a prolonged American presence in Iraq is neither affordable nor wise nor will it ultimately enhance our goals in the region, prolonged, but we're going to have to be there in the short term to do the training we've talked about.
MR. RUSSERT: Short term meaning a few years?
SEN. KERRY: Well, Tim, it's hard to figure out. I mean, if you go at the pace they're going today in the training, it's a long time. ...
MR. RUSSERT: President Bush is asking for $80 billion more for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you vote to authorize that $80 billion?
SEN. KERRY: The likelihood is yes, providing that they do some of the things that I've been talking about with respect to the training and so forth. There are indications that they probably will. You know, the difference between now and the prior votes is there's more of a plan in place.... We've had the election as of today. I think there is a way for the United States to transfer stability. But a year and a half ago, we had no plan whatsoever and we saw that barely any of that money was spent on reconstruction.
SEN. KERRY: Well, the point is--that's right, and that's the difference. That the difference in this race was 18 electoral votes, 50,000, 60,000 people changing their votes in one state. That is a mandate for unity, not a mandate to go rushing off to change Social Security, not a mandate to ignore the fiscal crisis of our country, not a mandate to sort of pick some ideological hot buttons and start punching them. It is a mandate, as I said in my concession speech, to bring the country together, find the common ground and do things that we need to do to strengthen America. And there is a long list of those things.and
MR. RUSSERT: But you voted against Condoleezza Rice to be secretary of state. That's not finding common ground. She is qualified to hold that job, no?
SEN. KERRY: Yes, and I said so. But I also said that she was a principal architect, implementer and defender of a policy that has made the United States of America less secure in the world. And that was a fight that was central to my campaign. It is central to what I think is one of the major issues that faces our country. And I think it's important to have accountability. I paid her a great tribute for her journey of life. I mean, I think she's a remarkable person. And I think she's obviously accomplished a great deal. But I wasn't voting on whether she was just qualified. I was voting on the judgments that she brought to the table. I was voting on the answers that she gave us in committee. And I was voting on the vision that she offered to the country. And I found all three, frankly, faulty.
MR. RUSSERT: See if you could clear up one issue that I think has been left over from the campaign. And that is Steve Gardner, who was a foregunner on your PCF-44 boat, cut a commercial for the Swift Boat Veterans and made a very specific charge. Let me just show that and you can come back and talk about it a little bit.Why can't he just admit he was wrong? About anything? Where was he on Christmas Eve 1968? He was clearly not in Cambodia as he said he was on numerous occasions...when will he just fade away?
(Videotape, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad):
MR. STEVE GARDNER: John Kerry claims that he spent Christmas in 1968 in Cambodia, and that is categorically a lie. Not in December, not in January, we were never in Cambodia on a secret mission ever.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, the New York Daily News editorial wrote an editorial, and it said this. "As for Kerry, he might ask why the Swifties' attacks have been effective. The answer is his propensity to exaggerate. ... It's looking more likely that he exaggerated, if not worse, when he claimed through the years that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve '68. He said the memory was `seared' into him, but it's now clear Kerry was elsewhere, at least at that time. He has yet to explain. Until he does, the Swifties will have a powerful weapon in their arsenal."
And they refer, Senator, to a speech on the floor in which you said that you were there, that the president of the United States was saying you were not there, that there were troops in Cambodia. You have the memory seared in you. In a letter to the Boston Herald, you remember spending Christmas Eve '68 five miles across the Cambodian border. You told The Washington Post you have a lucky hat given to you by a CIA guy "as we went in for a special mission to Cambodia." Were you in Cambodia Christmas Eve, 1968?
SEN. KERRY: We were right on the border, Tim. What I explained to people and I told this any number of times, did I go into Cambodia on a mission? Yes, I did go into Cambodia on a mission. Was it on that night? No, it was not on that night. But we were right on the Cambodian border that night. We were ambushed there, as a matter of fact. And that is a matter of record, and we went into the rec-- you know, it's part of the Navy records. It's been documented by the other guys who were on my boat. And Steve Gardner, frankly, doesn't know where we were. It wasn't his job, and, you know, he wasn't involved in that. But we did go five miles into Cambodia. It was on another day. I jumbled the two together, but we were five miles into Cambodia. We went up on a mission with CIA agents--I believe they were CIA agents--CIA Special Ops guys. I even have some photographs of it, and I can document it. And it has been documented....