Sunday, January 30, 2005

It starts with an "L" and rhymes with "choose her"

It seemed to me that Tim Russert, in his Meet the Press interview with John Kerry this morning, kept returning to one theme. Maybe it was just me. Read this excerpt from the transcript and see what you think.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Loser, you lost the presidential election big-time. Why do you think you lost so badly? Is it because you're a loser?

SEN. KERRY: I mean, look, I think we waged a great campaign. Did we make some mistakes? You bet we did. I take responsibility for them. You know, I am the person in charge, my campaign, I am responsible. I am not going to sit around worrying about what we did or didn't do. But we did some unbelievable things. We raised more money than any Democratic campaign in history. We involved more volunteers than any campaign in history. I won more votes than any candidate on the Democratic side has ever won in history. I lost, Tim, to an incumbent president by a closer margin than an incumbent president has ever won re-election before in the history of the country, and if you add up the popular vote in the battleground states, I won the popular vote in the battleground states by two percentage points. We just didn't distribute it correctly in Ohio.

So I think we did a great job, and we are going to continue to build on that campaign as I am now with my Kids First health plan. We have over 400,000 co-sponsors through the Internet who want to fight for this, and we are going to fight for it.

MR. RUSSERT: At the Clinton Library dedication on November 18, a few weeks after the election, you were quoted as saying, "It was the Osama bin Laden tape. It scared the voters," the tape that appeared just a day before the election here. Do you believe that tape is the reason you lost the race? Or is just that you're a loooo-ser? [Mr. Russert makes "L" sign with hand; holds it in front of his giant face]

SEN. KERRY: I believe that 9/11 was the central deciding issue in this race. And the tape--we were rising in the polls up until the last day when the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared and went down on Monday. I think it had an impact. But 9/11, you know, it's a very difficult hurdle when a country is at war. I applauded the president's leadership in the days immediately afterwards. I thought he did a good job in that, and he obviously connected to the American people in those immediate days. When a country is at war and in the wake of 9/11, it's very difficult to shift horses in midstream. I think it's remarkable we came as close as we did as a campaign. Many Republicans say we beat their models by four or five points as to what they thought we could achieve.

I am proud of the campaign, Tim. And I think if you look at what we did in states, I mean, millions of new voters came into this process. I won the youth vote. I won the independent vote. I won the moderate vote. If you take half the people at an Ohio State football game on Saturday afternoon and they were to have voted the other way, you and I would be having a discussion today about my State of the Union speech.

MR. RUSSERT: But we're not. Because you lost. You cast yourself as a potential commander in chief during the campaign, particularly at the convention, "I am John Kerry reporting for duty." What effect do you believe this book, "Unfit for Command" [holds up book], published by Regnery Publishing, now available for $19.01 at Amazon.com [camera focuses on book cover; it fills the entire screen], and the Swift Boat Veterans had on your candidacy? Do you think you lost because of this book, or did you lose because you're a loooo-ser? [Makes "L" sign with hand in front of humongous forehead]

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's for others to judge, Tim. I don't know. I mean, obviously I could have and should have responded faster and more forcefully, I think, to that. But lies and smears were proven in the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. My crew, others, all spoke to those lies and will continue to. But, you know, there's a new communication structure in America. And I think we could have done a better job of addressing it obviously. But that wasn't--you know, what decided this race in the end was really 9/11. And, you know, I am not going to worry about the past. I am going to go forward to the future.

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.
(Videotape, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad):

MR. STEVE GARDNER: John Kerry is a baby-bayonetting coward who 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.

MR. RUSSERT: [cough] LOSER!! [cough]

SEN. KERRY: And - pardon me?

MR. RUSSERT: Nothing. Go on.

SEN. KERRY: 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.

MR. RUSSERT: What about this allegation that you shot a fleeing pregnant woman in the back, and then cut her baby from the womb and sacrificed it to Satan? Do you think that cost you some votes, or do you think you just lost because you're a big fat loser?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, that allegation is just a vicious lie, a vile and disgusting smear and I can't believe that you'd dignify it by repeating it.

MR. RUSSERT: But you can't disprove it, can you, Senator Loser? Jerome Corsi, the co-author of this book, says he's moving to Massachusetts and will run against you for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's terrific. I'm not thinking about 2008 right now, but he can do whatever he wants.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you run for re-election in the Senate in 2008?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, I'm not thinking about 2008 right now. I'm really focused on what we're doing now. I'm excited about what I'm doing now. There are any number of potential things that I may wind up doing, and I'm going to keep all my options open.

MR. RUSSERT: Including running for president?

SEN. KERRY: I'll keep all my options open.

MR. RUSSERT: Could you run for the Senate and the presidency in 2008?

SEN. KERRY: I haven't even thought about it, honestly.

MR. RUSSERT: You lost this last presidential election. The mark of the loser is upon you [makes "L" sign again; holds it in front of his gigantic face]. With that in mind, are you going to run for the presidency in 2008?

SEN. KERRY: I don't know.

MR. RUSSERT: What about the Senate, Senator Loser? Will you run for the Senate again?

SEN. KERRY: As I said, I'm keeping my options open.

MR. RUSSERT: So are you going to run for the presidency in 2008? And possibly go down in humiliating defeat yet again?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, I don't know.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you run for the presidency again in 2008? Because you'll lose, you know.

SEN. KERRY: Tim, I - I've answered that question as best I can. I'm keeping my options open.

MR. RUSSERT: The 15 Democratic senators who won across the country all had more votes than you in each of their respective states. Why do you think that is? Is it because you're a loser?

SEN. KERRY: Because the vote for president is different and because security was the overwhelming issue and because, as I said, there was a 9/11 hurdle. There's a lot of evidence in the aftermath of the analysis that people found it hard to shift commander in chief in midstream. And, you know, I can understand. That's a difficult hurdle to get over. It's never been--nobody's ever gotten over it in history, and this was no exception.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think, Senator Kerry, if you were to run again, your own mother would vote for you?

SEN. KERRY: My mother is dead.

MR. RUSSERT: So she wouldn't vote for you.

SEN. KERRY: She can't vote. She's dead.

MR. RUSSERT: So you would have to concede, would you not, that your own mother would not vote for you.

SEN. KERRY: How can she? She's DEAD.

MR. RUSSERT: If there is a vacancy for chief justice of the United States and the president nominated Antonin Scalia to take that position, would you vote for him?


MR. RUSSERT: Ah-HA! You have walked into my cunningly laid journalistic trap, you fool. God, I'm good. In 1986, when Scalia was put on the court, he was confirmed 98-to-nothing, and this is what John Kerry said then about Judge Scalia. "I believe Judge Scalia is a man of principle and integrity. I believe that his conservative view of the role of the judiciary will provide a valuable and needed balance on the Court. ... While I may often disagree with Judge Scalia's views, I respect him as a jurist, a legal scholar. I believe that he will make a positive contribution to the Supreme Court, and I support his nomination." What about THAT, Senator Loser? What about that statement? How do you reconcile that 18 year old statement made before Justice Scalia had compiled a record as a Supreme Court Justice with your position today? Huh? Huh?

SEN. KERRY: I was wrong.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator John Kerry, we thank you for joining us. Thank you for your views.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: We'll see you opening day at Fenway when the Red Sox play the New York Yankees.

SEN. KERRY: That'll be a deal. [MR. RUSSERT and SEN. KERRY chuckle convivially]


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