Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) today told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the tactics of the Bush-Cheney campaign are “McCarthyism of the first order.”
Following are excerpts from Monday's interview, which telecast in its entirety on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” 7-8 p.m. (ET). Click to read the full transcript to Monday's show.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let’s talk about the public mood right now. You are a reader of public opinion. Right now, according to the latest NBC polling, 58 percent of the American people say that if President Bush is reelected, they want to see major changes in this policy. Another 31 percent say some major – some significant changes. Only nine percent of the American people believe that if Bush gets back in he should stay the same. With that overwhelming desire for change, why is Kerry behind in the polls?
SEN. TED KENNEDY: Well, because this – the Republicans have run a very effective campaign of massive distortion, massive deception, and that’s what we have seen – in terms of John Kerry’s record. They haven’t defended their own positions. They haven’t had a debate on their own economic policies. They haven’t wanted a debate in terms of Iraq in and of itself. They have wanted a debate on education or healthcare. What they have done is spent all their resources in distorting and misrepresenting. It’s a campaign of anger and insult. And the most egregious examples are the examples of Vice President Cheney. When – he even goes on to suggest that the – al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win. That is the most outrageous charge. It’s the most anti-American – it’s McCarthyism of the first order. But that has been the mark over the course of this campaign. And the American people have been listening to that, the tens of millions of dollars that have been going, and that’s made an impact, impression. But for my money, they are going to see – have a chance of seeing John Kerry and this president on these debates, as they’ll see John Edwards, and they’re going to have a chance to make a judgment. And when they see these candidates and they listen to them, my sense is they are going to say these are the individuals we want to lead our country.
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MATTHEWS: The CIA warned this administration that we were going to face tremendous responses around the world – negative responses from the Arab world, the Islamic world, the world as a whole, if we went into Iraq. Why do you think the president decided to go anyway, knowing he would face this unpopularity in the world we face right now?
KENNEDY: Well, there was no questions. It wasn’t only the CIA, it was the State Department intelligence and the Energy Department intelligence that questioned about the nuclear weapons. The defense intelligence questioned those (ph). State Department did. But they – and they very classified this, so that it wasn’t generally available to the members of the United States Senate. I, quite frankly, was convinced after listening to the military commanders that testified for our committee on this. But that was virtually excluded. That wasn’t shared with the Members of the United States. That was from – put it aside. And what the administration used, carefully selected kind of information and intelligence to make their own case, to support their own position on it. And what the – the rest is history, and that, I think, has been a major blunder. And it’s increasingly apparent. It isn’t only the Democrats who are saying it. These are – Chuck Hagel that’s...
KENNEDY: ... saying it. This is Dick Lugar that’s saying. This is John McCain that wondering whether we’re going to have adequate manpower if we’re challenging other parts of the globe. This is even Lindsey Graham saying, look, you don’t have to just paint a rosy picture in order to have a debate and discussion. National security shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it’s an American issue. But we’re coming into the last five weeks of a campaign, and John Kerry has a way of dealing with this issue. And it’s not only dealing with this issue, but also dealing with the issues and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And he also has a program to try to reform the intelligence. These are very important in terms of how this country is to look at its security for the future.