Video: Brokaw interviews Kerry

By Tom Brokaw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/1/2004 11:33:39 AM ET 2004-11-01T16:33:39

After starting his day in Ohio, Sen. Kerry brought his campaign to Madison, Wisconsin and one of the largest crowds of the election: more than 80,000 people.

But "the Boss," Bruce Springsteen, may have had something to do with the turnout. He's been raising money for Kerry at concerts and now — in the final days — he's bringing him on, like a rock star.

In his appearances Friday, Kerry hit hard on Iraq and economic issues. When we sat down for a formal interview, he continued on the same themes — dismissing suggestions that voters still are not enthusiastic about him.

Tom Brokaw: Senator, if things are so wrong in Iraq and in America, why is this election still so close, just the weekend before Election Day?

Sen. John Kerry: Because it's polarized. And because the Bush campaign has mostly run a very negative campaign to push the hot buttons of polarization. So it's very hard. Particularly when you're a nation at war.

Brokaw: A number of people even in your own party, however, say, "look, it's anybody but Bush." They're still not warming to John Kerry.

Kerry: Well, I don't agree with that. Everything in our indicators show differently. The rope lines, the people that I'm meeting around the country. There's an energy out there.

Brokaw: This week you've been very critical of the president because of the missing explosives in Iraq.The fact is, senator, we still don't know what happened to those explosives. How many for sure that were there. Who might have gotten away with them? Is it unfair to the president, just as you believe he's been unfair to you, to blame him for that?

Kerry: No. It's not unfair. Because what we do know, from the commanders on the ground, is that they went there, as they marched to Baghdad. We even read stories today that they broke locks off of the doors, took photographs of materials in there. There were materials. And they left.

Brokaw: The flip side of that is that if you had been president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Because you...

Kerry: Not necessarily at all.

Brokaw: But you have said you wouldn't go to war against him...

Kerry: That's not true. Because under the inspection process, Saddam Hussein was required to destroy those kinds of materials and weapons.

Brokaw: But he wasn't destroying them...

Kerry: But that's what you have inspectors for. And that's why I voted for the threat of force. Because he only does things when you have a legitimate threat of force. It's absolutely impossible and irresponsible to suggest that if I were president, he wouldn't necessarily be gone. He might be gone. Because if he hadn't complied, we might have had to go to war. And we might have gone to war. But if we did, I'll tell you this, Tom. We'd have gone to war with allies in a way that the American people weren't carrying the burden. And the entire world would have understood why we were doing it.

Brokaw: Let me ask you about social and domestic issues. Your colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Ted Kennedy, says that he's proud to be a liberal. Are you proud to be a liberal?

Kerry: That depends on what the issue is, Tom. I've always hated labels. And I don't abide by labels. You know, I'm an ex-prosecutor. I've sent people to jail for the rest of their life. I've busted up the number-two organized crime figures' organization in New England. What does that make me? I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. What does that make me?

Brokaw: But you don't deny your liberal credentials.

Kerry: On certain issues, I'm a liberal, Tom. On certain issues I'm a conservative. I'm a fiscal conservative. I believe in balancing the budget. And we worked at it, and we did it in the 1990's. You know, like Franklin Roosevelt said, I really don't care if a good idea is Republican or Democrat. I care whether it works for America. And that's what I'm gonna do as president.

Brokaw: You're very protective of your family, and very proud of them, I know. Do you regret invoking Mary Cheney in your debate with President Bush?

Kerry: No. I…

Brokaw: You don't regret it at all?

Kerry: Tom, it was done with respect, and it was done with pure sense of admiration for Dick and Lynne Cheney, who I think obviously love their daughter and are very proud of their daughter. She's made it a public thing. He's made it a public thing. I could have and should have perhaps mentioned Dick Gephardt, who honors his daughter. And loves her, in the same way.

Brokaw: Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.

Kerry: That's great. More power. I don't know how they've done it, because my record is not public. So I don't know where you're getting that from.

Brokaw: Do you think he's a smart man?

Kerry: I do. Yes, I do think he's a smart man.

Brokaw: Do you think too many people in your party underestimate?

Kerry: I think people have always underestimated President Bush. But I'm proud that in those debates, I didn't underestimate him.

Brokaw: Senator, I'm going to see the President over the weekend. Anything you want me to convey to him?

Kerry: Just say hello to him, and we'll chat on Tuesday.

Brokaw: I'll say to him what I'm going to say to you. Good luck.

Kerry: Thank you, sir.

Brokaw: Thank you.

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