IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Kerry counts down to election

Kerry was in Fort Lauderdale Sunday for a speech about faith and the values that would shape his decision-making as president. He spoke with NBC's Katie Couric.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

Nowhere are the stakes higher or the passions more intense than in the crucial battleground state of Florida. Senator Kerry began his Sunday like any other, by going to church. But by early afternoon, he was at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale for a speech about faith, and the values that would shape his decision-making as president.

Katie Couric: "You gave a speech this weekend on faith and values, two things that have heretofore fallen under the purview, if you will, primarily of the Republican party. Why was this important to you? You quoted the Bible, what, four times? Why was this something that you wanted to talk about?"

John Kerry: "It's part of who I am. It's part of what I intend to bring to the presidency. As president, I believe that we are -- those of us guided by faith, have to live out our faith. You don't just talk about faith. You live your faith. And faith puts certain moral responsibilities on you. If you believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I do, then you believe that you have some responsibility to other people. To community, to the poor, to the sick, to those less fortunate. I don’t think that our policies in the last years have lived up to the values that we ought to be living up to."

Couric: "Let me ask you about the politics of fear. I know that Saturday you said the president keeps going around the country trying to scare people, but you have also employed these tactics, one might say, by saying if the president is elected there might be a draft. People might have to work into their 70s or 80s because Social Security could be in jeopardy. You've raised the specter of bioterrorism based on the flu vaccine shortage. So isn't it the pot calling the kettle black to say that the president is scaring the American people?"

Kerry: "No. No, it is profoundly not at all. And I'll tell you why. Because, number one, if we have more of the same policy in Iraq, where we have nine out of 10 of our active duty divisions are either in Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or going to Iraq and you face North Korea, which is now a nuclear threat, and Iran, which is an increasing threat.  And you already have stop loss policy, a back door draft on your Reserves and your National Guard. The president has said we're making progress. He's going to do more of the same in Iraq. So how he's going to do that and get the job done when our own people tell us, ‘you don't have enough troops on the ground,’ is beyond me. I think that this is an anxiety that's not been. On Social Security, Katie. It's not my program that's privatizing social security. It's the president's program. He has chosen to do this."

Couric: "The Bush campaign is planning to spend the final days of this election saying, ‘You are weak on terrorism.’ Dick Cheney has talked about the fact that you voted against the first Gulf War. That Saddam Hussein would still be in power. The Soviet Union would still exist if it were up to you. You voted against intelligence funding after the first World Trade Center attack in '93. You don't have the record to be a Commander in Chief. And this weakness invites more terrorism."

Kerry: "Now let me just look you and America in the eye and tell you this. Unlike Dick Cheney and George Bush, I put my life on my line for my country when it counted. I fought for this nation and I defended it as a young man. And I will defend America as President of the United States. And I have supported the biggest military budgets in American history. I've supported the biggest intelligence budgets in American history. And I'm not going to take a second seat to anybody about the passion that I bring to defending America."

Couric: "Some voters have said, hey the United States hasn’t been attacked since Sept. 11, George Bush must be doing something right and we're too nervous to vote for a change at this point in time, you would say to them?"

Kerry: "I would say to them that this administration has told you George Bush and Dick Cheney have said to you it is not a matter of if we're going to be attacked, its a matter of when. And this administration, has neglected to the homeland security to push and find against that when. Do you know that the president just the other day, do you know what he said? He said he doesn't know if American will ever be safe. Well I do know that America will be safe, under my leadership –"

Couric: "But can you really, Senator, make the guarantee in all honesty –"

Kerry: "You bet, because we can win –"

Couric: "-- that America will be safe under all circumstances?"

Kerry: "Katie let me say this to you. We won World War II, we won the Cold War. We know we can do it if we put our minds to it. We haven't done a third of the things we need to do to win the war on terror."