Monitor Lunch: Edward Kennedy

Selected quotations from a Monitor lunch with Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D) of Massachussetts.

Opening statement:

"An overarching area – a key to all the hopes and dreams of the American people – is the shape of our economy. What we are faced with now is not just the question of recession and how deep it is, but the question of how we are going to respond to this.

"America has always been at its best when it is challenged and when it has been challenged in times of conflict. American leadership has always been at its best (when it recognizes) that there is a warfront – but also there is a homefront. ...

"Hopefully we will be able to address those domestic issues in the same atmosphere and same kind of response that we have been able to start off with in addressing the kind of challenges we have been facing (abroad)."

On immigration:

"I don't think there is a backlash against immigrants, it is against terrorists. ...You have a handful (coming in) who are potentially dangerous. The question about the free flow of people and the reunification of families you have to put into perspective. We want the free flow of people; we want the free flow of ideas, the free flow of goods. But we don't need the free flow of those supportive or actually involved in terrorism.

"There has been a complete breakdown of information that has been available to our counselor offices particularly from countries in the Middle East. The CIA wouldn't give to the FBI (the names of) those individuals they suspected of terrorism. They felt they would be undermining their own sources. That has to end. A counselor's office has to have updated information – that means daily information at the tip of their fingers, an enhanced watch list..."

On a congressional economic stimulus:

"I would hope we would be able to find some common ground. .... If we establish criteria in terms of what is fair, temporary, and would be a real stimulus – I think we ought to be able to find (compromise). We have made suggestions in terms of unemployment insurance, COBRA, also suggestions to help states that are also in decline. They are also reducing their budgets. We have to understand that. We can't offset everything but particularly in some of the areas that we can help offset – in Medicaid perhaps in terms of their spending, and provide some tax reductions. ...

"Let's try and find out what makes the greatest difference in terms of stimulating the economy. What does not make a lot of difference is providing the repayments for (the corporate) alternative minimum tax over the past several years. And what doesn't make a lot of sense is other kinds of tax proposals that are going to be finalized in the out years. What we need is something right now. The quicker it comes, the better it is. ..."

On the political impact of the war on terrorism on next year's elections:

"I think the politics will take care of itself. ...I am not one who believes we should be second-guessing the military decisions whether it is the use or non-use of combat forces, or the extent of combat forces, or whether we should bomb or not bomb during Ramadan...

"I think we ought to be supportive of those that are charged with the national security issues. ...I think 2002 and 2004 (are a) changed world. I think those will take care of themselves. I don't see, myself, political breakouts in terms of my colleagues or activity up there in Congress and the Senate. People are expecting to work on these matters and that is generally the attitude.

"...I don't think there is much you can say about what has changed here. ...With regards to the political outcome of the 2002 election in the House and Senate, I don't see that you can draw any kind of conclusions now. There is enough historically that points both ways and it would be a mistake in terms of the current issues and in terms of the politics to be trying to second-guess it."

On President Bush as a war president:

"I think he has done well on the war front. I think he has built the coalitions together, he has understood that this is multi-dimensional – in these areas – war, intelligence, financial, immigration. Those are the principal elements and obviously the economy – trying to stand for the stimulus package. There will be different elements in terms of the makeup but in terms of the overall and overarching issue I think he has been an inspiring figure and has been able to gain a good deal of respect and support in countries around the world and here at home."

On pressure to take the war to Iraq:

"I support the decision and the judgment of the Joint Chiefs (of Staff) in terms of focusing our military efforts where they are... We are going to get into a situation at some time – we all hope it is sooner rather than later but I don't think it is predictable – where there will be some outcome in terms of that undertaking and then I think we will be able to get focus and attention on other kind of threats on terrorism. I think those will be based upon the judgement and the intelligence and the information we are going to have...This doesn't mean that we are not going to be involved, but I am prepared to wait until we have concluded taking this step by step. I think one of the very sensible things this administration has done is to move step by step. They haven't been rushed into decision-making. They have done this in a methodical kind of way. I am very supportive of that sort of concept."

On government putting citizens on higher alert:

"I came out of an event the other night ...and people asked me: Are we on more alert? I don't know how to get on more alert personally. How do you get on a higher alert? ...I don't see how we really have a higher degree of alert for citizens. And I think they do become sort of alarmed and concerned, and I think it has a particular impact with regard to children.

"I have seen this in a number of the places I have been around in Massachusetts where this has intensified children's anxiety. We had very interesting hearings with four physiatrists about what is happening to children in terms of our society. You know they made the judgment to go home from school when this terrorist attack (occurred) which is just the wrong thing – they went back and saw this (on TV) repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. It really has had some very important impact. People around Boston and the other towns who talk about it feel the way I do: that we can't really personally do a lot more to get on higher alert. I don't know whether it really does a lot of good other than causing increased anxiety to people."

On extended government detention of terrorist suspects:

"We have joined with others in asking the Justice Department for both a report and a briefing and we have done this with a bipartisan panel request ...and we haven't heard back. I am expecting it to be next week to get either a report or a briefing. And we will have a good deal more information at that time. The fact that we have got (a request that is) bipartisan and bicameral enhances our opportunity to get to the bottom of it."

On bombing during the Ramadan holiday:

"Basically, we have bombed on other holidays. If they feel they have to bomb in terms of carrying out a mission, I am supporting it. One of the things we saw in terms of the most recent history in Kosovo is when we were involved in the bombing there were a lot of people that started criticizing what we were going to bomb here and what we were going to bomb there. There was a lot of second-guessing. ...

"I think it is a mistake to get back to that kind of situation where we are second-guessing the military. It is counterproductive in terms of reaching our aims and our goals. I don't know whether the judgment is going to be made to do it or not to do it, but I am not going to second-guess it."

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