John Kerry Accuses Bill Clinton of Abusing the Truth

The National Journal has interviewed John Kerry. When asked about the attacks from the Clinton campaign, Kerry replied, “Well, I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it’s been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama‘s positions that are just plain untrue.” Kerry also discussed Obama’s experience noting, “Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either of his two opponents.” The full transcript of the interview follows:
Q: I’d like to introduce Sen. John Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, United States senator now. Welcome, Sen. Kerry.

Kerry: Good morning, glad to be with you. Thank you.

Q: So, senator, you have endorsed Barack Obama, and this week, of course, the campaign was absolutely consumed with these charges and counter-charges, and it seemed to many of us that Obama’s message about hope and change was pretty much drowned out. What happened, here?

Kerry: Well, I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it’s been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama‘s positions that are just plain untrue. It was said in Nevada, it’s been said about Social Security, it’s been said about Yucca Mountain, and it’s been said in South Carolina. I think it’s very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that. When somebody’s coming on strong and they are growing, people get a little frantic, and I think people have seen this sort of franticness in the air, if you will.My sense is, Barack Obama offers a better opportunity to pull America together than any other candidate in the race. If you look at the fact that the governor of Arizona, a red state, Gov. Janet Napolitano, has endorsed Barack Obama, former governor and now senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, red state, has endorsed Barack Obama. The two senators from North Dakota and South Dakota, the Democratic senators, have endorsed Barack Obama. Claire McCaskill, the senator from Missouri, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, was asked the question, “Can a Democrat carry Virginia?” And his answer was, “the right Democrat,” and then he endorsed Barack Obama.

So, I think Barack Obama has the ability to pull the nation together, to offer the kind of inspired leadership that we need to tackle some very serious problems, and to make America stronger in the world. And that’s why I’m for him.

Q: Let’s just go back to what you said right at the beginning. So you are saying, then, that former President [Bill] Clinton is the one who has been abusing the truth?

Kerry: I think there has been an overreach with respect to what Barack Obama has said and when he said it, and I think it’s been unfortunate, but I don’t think we ought to spend our time there. I think people want to focus on what are you doing to do to get my health care, what are you going to do to get my job?I think that Barack Obama, for instance, has a stimulus plan that is important to the workers of South Carolina and to the rest of the country. Because, first of all, it’s smart. It’s not going to be a long-term budget increase, it’s going to be a temporary one; it’s targeted to the middle class; it’s targeted to poor families who need the relief. But it also provides money to business investment — business incentive in order to help create the jobs we need to move the Economy and he focuses also on the sub-prime housing crisis, which I personally believe is one of the single most important components of restoring confidence in the Economy.

Q: Of course, Hillary Clinton is running a very focused campaign on the economy and now certainly her own stimulus plan was criticized by some but she has former President Clinton’s Economic record to run on, how does he push back against that, that’s a very powerful asset that she has.

Kerry: Sure it is, but people again need to be able to distinguish. Look, I supported the programs, a lot of things that we did in the 1990s, but I think everyone understands we had a technology boom in the 1990s which was unprecedented, and everybody benefited from that. We made some tough decisions and we ought to be proud of them, about the budget and the deficit. But the fact is, that was not Hillary Clinton making those decisions. It was a different team, at a different time.In fact, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either of his two opponents. He served eight years in the Illinois legislature and now several in the United States Senate, in total, he has more legislative years. And if you look back in history, Abraham Lincoln had only two years in the United States Congress, and then he lost. He was sent back to Illinois in shame, ran for the United States Senate, lost his race for the Senate, then was nominated to be the leader of his party. And he became, arguably, our greatest president in history. So I think you have to look at the breadth of experience, and the type of experience.

You know, I look at Barack Obama: He’s older than Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton became president. He’s older than John Kennedy was, he’s older than Teddy Roosevelt was and he has a broad experience and has proven his ability through his campaign to be able to lead and to pull people together. And again, I go back to what I just said — look at the coalition he is building: Nebraska, Arizona, Virginia, Missouri, North and South Dakota. These are the states where we need to build that kind of new coalition, and I think he’s attracting independents and Republicans and Democrats who are fed up with the way things have been. We gotta change.

Q: Just a couple quick questions, because you made such interesting points here, senator. The consensus seems to be now though that, for whatever reason, Barack Obama is now identified as the “black candidate.” How did that happen?

Kerry: Well, if it happened, I’m not sure that that is accurate at all, and I don’t necessarily accept it. But to whatever degree that has been injected here, it has been injected, frankly, by the other campaign, and I think it’s unfortunate, but I just don’t accept that. And I think the people that are supporting him is evidence of that.I don’t look at Barack Obama and see a black candidate. I see an inspiring, young, American United States senator — that’s what I see — who happens also to be African American. Just as Hillary happens also to be a woman, and just as John Edwards happens also to be a white. So what? What you look at– I mean, this is the test of this race.

Are we the country we say we are? Are we the country that holds certain truths to be self-evident, words which incidentally were written by a 33-year-old named Thomas Jefferson. You know, are we the country that judges people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin — words that were written by Martin Luther King when he was about 34 years old.

So the fact is that, to whatever degree that issue has been put in this race, I think this is a moment for Americans to prove it doesn’t matter anymore, and we’re beyond that. And that’s one of the transformative aspects of this candidacy that I find so appealing and so important to the nation and to the world. If we can elect Barack Obama, the message to the world about who we are, what we believe and what the possibilities are in America, are extraordinary.

Q: Well, very strong case made, certainly, on behalf of your candidate. Thank you so much, Sen. John Kerry. I hope you can join us again.

Kerry: It’s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you very much.

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  1. 1
    steve jennette says:

    John Kerry would have been a great president.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Probably better than any of the candidates this year.

  3. 3
    Nick says:

    Most definitely, Ron, most definitely he would be better than anybody running this year.

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