Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Sen. John Kerry.

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts.

On how the Bush administration has handled the Iraq issue:

"The administration, in my judgment, has proceeded almost all summer and all year long in a way that has made the road more difficult, not less, and complicated their own case. I think they have squandered some of the support and sympathy of the world...

"Regime change is not the beginning, it is the end. The beginning is the enforcement of the United Nations resolutions which finally the president, only upon the urging of many people including ultimately Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft, finally acceded to and went to the United Nations.

"I would rather have a president who decided initially that that was the way he was going to start and didn't have to be urged to do it, didn't do it as a matter of compromise, as a matter of second thinking. I think that second thinking and compromise in fact already poisoned the well to some degree and people wonder where they are coming from rather than where Saddam Hussein is coming from.

"Through its own clumsiness in the summer – a public debate in the papers, leaks from the Pentagon, ... they kind of created a debate about the administration rather than a debate about Saddam Hussein .... I think it has been bad public diplomacy."

On the timing of a congressional resolution on action against Iraq:

"I think the timing is unfortunate. I would like to see the president exercise great statesmanship here and help to come up with a resolution that is outside of politics, or if he can't do that, take it out of politics the way his father did by putting it after the elections. But I don't think it is going to happen....

"I think it is no accident that we are debating this in September. But I think the American people, given the news in today's papers and the realities of what is happening in the country, are not going to be fooled. And [I think] that they still will be concerned about their health care, education funding, their jobs, job security, retirement security, the loss of pensions.

"There is a huge anxiety across this country about what has happened to life expectations – things people thought they had worked for and worked hard for. And I don't think that gets wiped away or disappears in the polls. I think people have misjudged the depth of that anxiety and the intelligence of the American electorate and I think it will be felt at the polls."

On mood of voters:

"I think the great issue of our time right now is security. Job security, income security, retirement security, health security, education, personal security, physical security, and national security. Security is the issue right now. And Americans are feeling a little jolted, a little bit anxious about a number of different components of that."

On his vision for the country:

"If I ran, I would prefer to try to run for the vision of where the country ought to go, what kind of choices we face in the nation. I think they are very serious. I'd like to have a great discussion in the country, if I ran, about a better sense of choices for our country."

On tax cuts:

"I wouldn't allow new tax cuts to go into place, the ones that [President Bush] has coming down the road. I think we simply can't afford them right now. You know the old saying: it's not the government's money, it's your money. That is not true anymore. Now it is your children's' money. Because we are borrowing in order to provide [tax cuts]. I don't think you borrow money from your kids in order to provide today's tax cuts. So the answer is I would absolutely not allow the next tranche to go through. I would not repeal something someone already has. That I would not do. ...That does amount to a tax increase and I would not do that."

On the economy:

"We have the largest decline in the stock market since Herbert Hoover. Under Herbert Hoover, it was about 30 percent, it was 21 percent last week, probably more now. The only other decline of any president since Herbert Hoover was under Nixon when it was minus 5 percent...

"Every single quarter since this man has been president we have had a decline in business growth, a decline in business investment. We had the most significant reduction in growth in the county in 50 years in this nation....I think the economy is an extraordinary issue...."

On risks of the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive action against potential enemies:

"We always have had a doctrine of preemption, always have had a right of preemption and America will always have that right. And I would always want to preserve that right. Even in nuclear doctrine we had a doctrine of preemption, first strike. We said we wouldn't use it, but we had it. And it always was a potential choice for a president if he thought something was going to happen.

"But it is something we tried to keep on a back burner. Something we tried to restrain because if it applies for us, it also applies for others. If you now assert a doctrine of preemption, [then] what are China's rights with respect to Taiwan...? What are India's rights with respect to Pakistan?

"And so those who believe American is best served always by asserting in that way our prerogatives can in fact end up inviting mischief and challenges. That's why I think it is better left unasserted."

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