Jewish World Review Jan. 29, 2004 / 6 Shevat, 5764
A conversation with John Kerry
Q: Before Iowa, you were counted out. The polls in New Hampshire had you
losing by incredible percentages. You were even behind in your home state
of Massachusetts. Did you ever feel you were washed up?
Kerry: I always believed I would win Iowa. I can't say the "prevailing
wisdom" didn't provide a hurdle. It made winning harder. The polls in New
Hampshire caused people to miss what I was doing in Iowa.
But I felt confident. I am confident about who I am. I thought if I could
get out there with my message, people would listen.
I have the strongest and longest record of anyone in this field of taking
on powerful special interests and fighting for change and for values that
make a difference. And that is what this race is about. People want
somebody who is on their side, who is fighting for them.
Q: Why are you connecting now?
Kerry: Because I am really talking from my heart and gut. That's what
people want. They want something that is real. They are tired of the
politics of broken promises. I believe politics can be the noble profession
that John Kennedy called it when he summoned us to it. And I am frustrated
by it because right now it is a trail of broken promises and empty hollow
rhetoric. And of partisan divisiveness.
Q: But what is working now that didn't work before?
Kerry: You have to show people your heart.
Q: It can't be faked?
Kerry: People are very smart. People are absolutely penetrating in their
ability to know whether it's authentic or not.
Q: How did you make the decision to shift resources to Iowa?
Kerry: Common sense told me to spend time and resources in Iowa. It was
like my decisions to shake up the campaign. You had to change the dynamic.
That is what leadership is about making decisions. I had a great sense of
confidence in what I was saying and just go and talk to people personally.
Q: It was a surprisingly large victory.
Kerry: I won the colleges. I won every college but one or two. I won anti-war
voters. I won what people would have thought were improbably demographics
by getting out and getting the message out.
He (Dean) spent two years there. I always believed it was possible to win,
but that doesn't guarantee an outcome, but it motivates you. I believed in
myself. I believed in my candidacy. I believe it now. I believe I can win
this nomination. I believe I can beat George Bush.
Q: What led you to believe you could win?
Kerry: The response I was getting from people was there was a disconnect
between (the polls) and reality. That gave me confidence. People were
coming up to me and saying, "I was for Howard Dean, but now I am for you.'
Q: You think there is nothing wrong with being a "Washington Democrat," a
Kerry: I respect the knowledge and legislative skills of most of my
colleagues. Some don't.
Q: The Vietnam war is a big part of your campaign and a big part of your life.
Kerry: No. The Vietnam War is not (a big part of my campaign), my life
experience is. Vietnam is one part of it. But I also offer up and talk
about my experiences as a prosecutor, as a lieutenant governor. The theme
is delivering to the American people, making government accountable, making
it work for people.
Q: Both you and John Edwards have been talking about two Americas, the
haves and the have-nots. Is that the same as Al Gore's "people vs. the
Kerry: I talk a lot about the excessive power of the special interests.
But I don't like (Gore's) framing of it. It is too divisive and a
little bit shrill. But I do believe that most reasonable business people
concede the excess of influence that money has in American politics. But
there are certainly powerful people who also fight for the right things.
The simple word is: Yes, there are powerful special interests that have
worked their will on legislative process by throwing a lot of money around
Washington and they have undermined the legitimate interests of the broad
base of America.
Q: Will Bush be a better campaigner this year than he was four years ago?
Kerry: Absolutely. He's been president for three and half years, he is
well briefed and he has had a lot of practice. He has the cocoon and power
of the presidency. And it is not inconsiderable. But I still have confidence I
can beat him. He'll have money; they have money. We have ideas and the
people. That is a powerful countervailing force.
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