Kerry: It was Edwards or Don Imus for Veep
MSNBC's Don Imus interviews Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards on how Edwards became VP pick, their votes on the Iraq war and more
Steven Senne / AP file
DON IMUS, HOST, 'IMUS IN THE MORNING': Senator Edwards, did Senator Kerry tell you why he picked you?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sort of. Sort of. Not entirely, but, I mean, I think it was because he believed that both of us have the same vision for the country, we have the same set of ideas. He saw that through the course of the primary. And we believe in each other. Pretty simple.
IMUS: So why do you think, then, if he didn’t tell you, then that’s why you think he picked you? Or do you think... not because Senator McCain wouldn’t run with him?
EDWARDS: Well, he says—I’m going to let him answer this one.
He says he never asked Senator McCain to run with him. We both love John McCain, but I’ll let John answer that question.
IMUS: Well, Senator Kerry, what did happen with Senator McCain?
SEN. JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not very much at all. First of all, John McCain’s a great friend of John Edwards and myself. I value my friendship with him enormously. You like him, I like him. He’s a stand-up guy.
And a lot of Republicans actually, and others, came to me and said, “You really ought to think about, you know, having John McCain in a, sort of, unity, fusion ticket.”
I mean, you asked me why I picked John Edwards. Look, I wanted somebody articulate. I wanted somebody willing to take on the Bush administration. I wanted somebody with roots in a critical state.
KERRY: I wanted somebody with young kids who knows what families face. So it was either John Edwards or Don Imus, and look who I choose.
IMUS: As you perhaps know, Senator Kerry, for our 20-year relationship, this is not “Meet the Press and I don’t pretend to be impartial and I, obviously, am supporting you and I have great affection—not quite as much as you apparently do, but I have great affection for John Edwards.
But I do find myself in the position of having to talk to people like [Sen.] Zell Miller and an unfortunate conversation I had with Senator Orrin Hatch yesterday in which—and I’ve urged them not to, but they bring up these uncomfortable issues about, for example, both of you supporting the war in Iraq and then the president yesterday making fun of you, Senator Kerry, for you having said that you first voted for the $87 billion and then against it, and I feel foolish...
KERRY: You know, Don, it’s so simple for the president to joke about very serious issues when young kids are dying, because he didn’t make the plan to win the peace in Iraq. And I take that very personally as somebody who fought in a war, which he chose not to, that saw leaders make bad decisions. That’s what happened. And leaders didn’t tell the truth to the American people. So it means something to me.
Now, when the president gets us into Iraq and refuses to bring the allies to the table, refuses to do what’s necessary in terms of diplomacy and statesmanship to share the burden, when you, Don Imus, and every other taxpayer in America are paying billions of dollars to open firehouses in Iraq while we’re shutting them in the United States, as well as all the other things that are being wrapped up in that money, John Edwards and I both thought, “Rather than just dumping another $87 billion into this wrongly headed policy, let’s get it right.”
It’s very simple. And we voted to get it right.
KERRY: I was willing to vote for the $87 billion providing we paid for it, providing we asked America to sacrifice all of us together. So Joe Biden and I—and I know you like Joe—Joe and I brought an amendment to say, “Hey, America, rather than have a $690 billion tax cut for everybody over the next 10 years who’s earning, you know, over $200,000 a year, why don’t we just share the sacrifice and take $600 billion, and that way we could pay for the entire war right up front and not add to the deficit?”
Guess what? George Bush said no. The Republicans said no. And what they’re doing is trying to once again, mislead America, as they do so effectively, make a joke out of something that’s serious. They’ve added that money to the deficit. They’re burdening our children. John Edwards and I want to be fiscally responsible, put America back on track, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
IMUS: That’s probably a longer answer than I would be able to give to, say, Senator Miller or Senator Hatch, but...
KERRY: Well, you know, that’s a problem, some of these things are a little complicated. They like to simplify them and pretend to America. The pretending time is over.
EDWARDS: Don, can I add one thing? John Kerry and I actually talked about, “boy, this is going to be a problem, isn’t it?” I talked about this actually at the time of the vote. Both of us believed that what the president was doing in Iraq, and that’s become increasingly clear now, was not working, it was important for us to say so.
IMUS: Senator Edwards, yesterday on the “Today” show you said you thought that Vice President Cheney, among other things, had lost touch with the American people. My wife said, do you think senator—or Vice President Cheney knows what a gallon of milk costs in Albuquerque, New Mexico or a six pack of Budweiser? And I said probably not. And you were just in Albuquerque. Do you know?
EDWARDS: I know about what it costs.
IMUS: Well, what do you think a gallon of milk costs in Albuquerque?
EDWARDS: I think a half a gallon of milk costs about $2.30, $2.40, is that right?
IMUS: Actually, it cost $4.19. What do you think a six-pack of beer costs in Albuquerque?
EDWARDS: I have to be honest with you, I haven’t drank a six pack of beer in a long time, so I don’t know the answer to that.
IMUS: I know, but you’re going to try to get a bunch of those people who do drink it to vote for you.
EDWARDS: It’s a good question. I hadn’t bought a six pack of beer in years, so I don’t know.
IMUS: Senator Kerry, you’re campaign and you were demanding to know whether President Bush had read this national intelligence estimate before committing to go to war with Iraq, and it turns out that your staff admitted that you didn’t read it either.
KERRY: I’ve seen several national intelligence estimates. I don’t know what they’re referring to. I’m not sure what they’re referring to. I’ve seen, over the course of my Senate career, a number of national intelligence estimates. I also saw the Pentagon listing of basic priorities, and Iraq was the last on their listing of priorities. They had about 15 or 20 priorities, and I went over those prior to it, and I also went to a meeting at the Pentagon where we talked about that. The last priority, almost the last priority of a list of maybe 15 different priorities was Iraq.
IMUS: The president is claiming, rather, that the Iraq war has made us safer, and some people think that that may be the pivotal election question, and it would be fair that it’s been coming up on three years, and thank God we haven’t been attacked again in this country. Is the president right, or have we just been lucky, or what?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, Saddam being gone is good, and John and I both believe that. But it’s the problem is what’s happened to our relationships around the world has made it incredibly difficult for us to get to a lot of these terrorist cells where they’re operating. And one of the things that both of us have talked about way back then, when the resolution was voted on, is how important it was for us to have strong coalitions, to have strong relationships with our friends and allies.
And just as a practical matter, if we’re going to get the president talks about the war on terrorism, but if we’re going to get at these terrorists outside our borders in order to be effective at doing that, we’re going to have to go where they are. And to go where they are, we’re going to have to have relationships with the countries that work with us cooperatively.
IMUS: Back to McCain for a second. There may be some scenario where if they can’t find Osama, they’re going to lose Cheney in that the vice president would not run with President Bush. They would try to get either McCain to acquiesce or Rudy Giuliani or someone like that. Do you think that’s accurate? Do you think there’s any substance to that?
You know, the fact is that George Bush would be declaring an act of desperation, a sudden move, that goes contrary to everything that he said.
I might add, that almost every promise he has made to the country at this point in time, regrettably, he’s reversed. He said he would leave no child behind; he didn’t fund the legislation. He said he would not go into deficit when he created his tax cut. We went deeper into deficit than at any time in American history. He said he would have a tax cut create 5.1 million jobs. We lost two million jobs. He said he would advance the environment and do a four-pollutant bill. Not only did he not even try to do the bill, but he eliminated one of the pollutants as even a pollutant.
I mean, you can run down this long, extraordinary list of reversals by the president, and this will be one more if he were to do that.
I don’t think John and I are focused on that. What John and I are focused on is our vision for the country. We have a plan, we have a plan to provide health care to Americans. We have a plan to lower the cost of health care for everybody. You, your radio station, newspapers, people across the country. We will lower the cost of health care and American businesses will be more competitive. We also have a plan to be fiscally responsible, cut the deficit in half, and invest in education and job creation.
So Americans have a choice here, between four years in which they can measure the broken promises, versus the plans that John and I have laid out and the votes that we have cast in support of those plans.
IMUS: And finally, though, Senator Kerry, I am—as I have in the past, I am going to stay with you, win, lose, draw, whatever happens. I have to be honest with you, I’m out here in the middle of New Mexico, and we don’t have an opportunity to look at the news much, and I was afraid you were not going to pick Senator Edwards. I was enormously happy that you did. You know, I actually like Senator Edwards. Charles thinks he’s a little slick, but I like him a lot. That was a great choice, as long as you couldn’t get McCain. And then Senator Edwards...
You didn’t ask me for this advice, but tell me just—tell me what’s going to happen. If you don’t win, Senator Kerry, one, will never speak to you again, and in 2008 he will endorse Hillary Clinton.
EDWARDS: Never happen. First of all, we’re going to win, so...
KERRY: Thank you.
IMUS: All right, you guys, thank you both very much.
KERRY: Thanks, Don.
EDWARDS: We’re glad to be with you.
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