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Kerry tells Fox, McCain flip-flopped to win nomination
David Edwards and Chris Tackett
Published: Sunday April 6, 2008

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John Kerry appeared on Fox News Sunday and said John McCain had changed his opinions on key issues such as the US occupation in Iraq and tax cuts in order to win the Republican nomination.

When Chris Wallace asked Kerry if he thought McCain was a "blatant opportunist", Kerry responded by saying, "No, look, I think John McCain has taken positions in the course of trying to win the Republican nomination, whether it's the reversal and flip-flop on the intolerance with respect to Jerry Falwell and others or whether it's the Bush tax cuts flip-flop or this flip-flop now on the issue of Iraq or whether it is, you know, global climate change where he has not yet signed on to Joe Lieberman and John Warner's bill. There's a clear indication of a nomination John McCain versus the senator John McCain."

You can see the exchange in the video below.

Transcript via closed captions

:: joining us now to discuss iraq and presidential politics is senator john kerry. he's on the campaign trail for senator barack obama. and he comes to us from philadelphia. senator, let's start with the question i asked senator mccain about barack obama's fitness to be president. take a look, if you will, back when you were running in 2003, here's what you had to say about experience. the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training on national security and foreign affairs issues. question -- why was experience important then and it isn't now?

:: well, it's judgment. judgment and experience, and i think barack obama comes with -- look, he has more experience in foreign policy than george bush, ronald reagan or bill clinton had when they became president, chris. number two, judgment is the critical element here. john mccain, i just listened to him. john mccain has been wrong. he said that he said it would be long and tough in iraq. in fact, in '03, john mccain said the war would be brief and the oil would pay for it. he was wrong. last month he said that muqtada al-sadr was losing his influence. he was wrong. in january he said basra is not a problem. he was wrong. in fact, on the 100 years war issue, john mccain is being disingenuous. what he said in that interview was as long as there is no violence, which indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of iraq itself. our own national intelligence people tell us it is the american presence that is attracting jihadists and creating violence. if he's talking about being there for 40 years, 100 years --

:: on the question of 100 years and you campaigned for president in 2004, i never heard you say let's get all of our troops out of south korea where they've been for half a century. i never heard you say let's pull our troops out of germany where they've been for more than half a century. that was the model he was talking about there. not 100 years of war.

:: i disagree, chris. if you go back and look at what he said on the charlie rose show four months ago, he put it in the context of no casualties. he said can you do that in iraq? john mccain said, no, you can't do it in iraq because of the culture and religion. he got it right then. he's getting it wrong now. the point is that you have a john mccain who has really shown a misunderstanding of where the real center of the war on terror is. he has adopted the bush policy with respect to the war a terror which is a mistake with respect to how we're prosecuting it in iraq. and he has ignored what we need to be doing in afghanistan and pakistan as has the bush administration.

:: senator, if i may, i think you're talking two different interviews. when he was talking 100 years, he was in a town hall meeting in new hampshire and then specifically talked about the south korea model. let me ask you, if i may --

:: chris -- chris --

:: let me ask you, then you can answer any question you want. back in 2004, you spoke very differently about john mccain. you considered him as a possible vice presidential running mate. in may of 2004, you said mccain was your first choice to be secretary of defense, and that's at a time when we had already been in iraq for more than a year, sir.

:: no, i didn't say that.

:: you didn't say which, sir?

:: i didn't say he was my first choice.

:: it was a quote from may 2004.

:: let me be very clear about john mccain in 2004, john mccain in 2004 was a senator john mccain who had opposed the bush tax cuts, who had indicated at that point in time a very different attitude on any number of subjects from global climate change to how you treat the powerful in washington. nomination john mccain is a different person. he is now supporting the bush tax cuts for the wealthiest americans, he took the position of the most powerful interests against the average minimum, he votes against the minimum wage repeatedly against.

:: back to the war on iraq, there wasn't a different john mccain.

:: there was not a john mccain --

:: he had been supporting the iraq war. he had voted for it as well. you were talking about him as being a member of a kerry administration.

:: no, i -- we -- we had a conversation about whether or not to explore the issue. we never got to the full exploration, chris, number one. number two, let's be very clear about this hundred years. again, the model in japan and in korea is a model where they have adopted a full democracy and where they have none of the insurgency, al qaeda, jihadists, religious extremism, that you have in iraq. john mccain himself four months ago, please go back and read the interview, said in answer to charlie rose, no, i don't envision it being possible to stay that period of time in iraq, and we will withdraw, he said, because of the religious and cultural component. so you have a different john mccain today when he talks about hundred years or a million years. the bigger issue, this is where barack obama has shown the vision to be president juxtaposed to john mccain. barack obama understands the policies of john mccain and george bush are not making america safer. iran is more powerful. iraq is in chaos fundamentally, a dysfunctional government. you have afghanistan where the taliban is resurging. you have pakistan which is fragile. you haven't yet succeeded in dealing with the nuclear weapons of north korea. you still have al qaeda, hamas more powerful, hezbollah.

:: senator, can i get back to one of my questions --

:: chris, this is your question.

:: no, no, i think we've gone off the track at this point. a few days ago, democratic party chairman howard dean said this about john mccain. let's put it up on the screen. he called him a blatant opportunist who doesn't under the economy and is promising to keep our troops in iraq for a hundred years. you complain about republican attacks on you back in 2004. what do you think of howard dean calling mccain a blatant opportunist?

:: well, i honestly don't know what he was referring to or where that comes from. i'm not going to sit here -- the key issue --

:: do you think he's a blatant opportunist?

:: no, look, i think john mccain has taken positions in the course of trying to win the republican nomination, whether it's the reversal and flip-flop on the intolerance with respect to jerry falwell and others or whether it's the bush tax cuts flip-flop or this flip-flop now on the issue of iraq or whether it is, you know, global climate change where he has not yet signed on to joe lieberman and john warner's bill. there's a clear indication of a nomination john mccain versus the senator john mccain.

:: with all do you respect, every politician, frankly, including you, have been accused of flip-flops over the years. if i may, do you think john mccain was an opportunist when he was supporting the troop surge when no one else in the congress was supporting the troop surge? do you think john mccain was an opportunist when he refused to take early release from a vietnamese prison camp?

:: chris, you almost insult my values or anyone else as an american. no one would insinuate --

:: howard dean called him a blatant opportunist.

:: i think he's referring to what's happened in this period of time with regard to the nomination. i referred to several major reversals. come back to what you just said about me, etc., the one -- the one reversal the republicans tried to play with was my vote against an amendment that i had voted for because i wanted to pay for the war. that was a vote of principle. when the senate refused to pay for the war and the senate refuse to do demand a plan from the administration, out of principle, i said i'm not going to vote for that. that was not a flip-flop. that was a vote of principle. now, you'll have to explain to me how voting for the bush tax cuts after you vote against them is not a change, a fundamental chain in principle?

:: senator, we're running out of time and i want to ask you about new events. general petraeus is coming to testify before congress this week, a new national intelligence estimate indicates the troop surge has brought not victory, but some success both from the military and the political side. shouldn't petraeus be allowed to finish the troop drawdown in july, then have a pause to see how things happen, before deciding whether to pull out any more troops?

:: i think, obviously, there aren't the votes in the senate not to do that, so he's going to be allowed to do that, chris. that's not the issue. the issue is what i was focusing on earlier about this huge difference between barack obama and john mccain and the security of our country. it's not a political issue. it's a real issue. the fact is america is less safe today because of the policies that have been pursued by this administration. john mccain supports the policy that our own intelligence agency tells us is attracting more jihadists, creating more terrorists, and diverting us from the real focus in pakistan and afghanistan. barack obama understands that. john mccain apparently does not. and his policy wants to continue with a bogged down america in iraq rather than change the dynamic. barack obama has said we will be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in and he knows we have to change the dynamic, deal with iran, deal with syria, create real diplomacy. the reason the surge has been successful is partly because of the increase of our troops, who are superb, but also because muqtada al-sadr declared a truce and because as you said yourself to john mccain, the sunnis decided they were better off working with the americans. that is not an equation for long-term success in iraq.

:: senator kerry, we're going to have to leave it there. we want to thank you very much for a very spirited interview z. they always are.

:: please come back.

:: thank you very much.