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Q&A with John Kerry from Choose Or Lose Campaign Roadshow

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Gideon Yago: Senator, my first question for you is on the economy. Because the cost of education is so high and it's such a tough job market, for the last couple of years you've had kids graduating college with not the best prospects. Either you move back in with mom and dad, a dreaded possibility, you rack up more college-education debt, or you take the job of last resort. If you're elected, what would you do to improve the job prospects of future college grads?


John Kerry: First of all, I'm gonna raise the student loans — the Perkins Loans and Pell Grants — to where they were before, and then we're going to go beyond that. And we've laid out a plan to do it. I'm going to provide a $4,000 tuition tax credit to help parents or kids who are paying for themselves to be able to afford to go to college. We're going to provide a pay-down on student loans for young people who really want to go into working with other kids or working in schools or doing childcare — you know, different community-service jobs that don't pay a lot. But we're gonna help pay down that student-loan burden by exciting people to come in and do some things that we need to do. Most importantly, we're gonna create the good-paying jobs of the future by committing America to science, to technology, to research, to development. We're gonna reward the companies that stay in America, not the ones that go abroad, and we're gonna start down the road to energy independence in our country. ... I've estimated within the first few years we can create about half a million jobs by creating a targeted goal for alternative and renewable fuels and moving America into new technologies. We can do this. We've had bad policies and bad choices for the last four years. We've lost jobs abroad. We've lost 1.8 million manufacturing jobs. The president says this is the best economy that we've ever had. It's obviously not, and I think we can do a lot better, and that's what I intend to do.

Yago: Now, this generation that's graduating has tens of thousands of dollars in education debt, not to mention personal debt when they leave school. How did it get that bad? How did it lead up to this?

Kerry: Well, a lot of different components. First of all, the educational institutions are raising their costs, and that's been happening without the kind of discipline necessary to try to reduce the overhead of some universities. In addition, the costs of living have gone up and wages have not kept up with it in the last four years. Under Bill Clinton, we saw the wages of Americans go up, on average, about $7,101. Under President Bush, the wages of Americans have gone down, particularly middle-class Americans and those struggling to get into [the middle class] — they've lost about $1,600. But healthcare costs have gone up. That's one of the things that's driving the costs of education and business and everything. I have a plan for healthcare for all Americans; George Bush does not. It's very simple. But we have to roll back the unaffordable tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and invest in our future. That's what John Edwards and I want to do.

Yago: Your exit strategy for Iraq is based on the idea that if you're elected, you'll be able to bring our traditional allies back to the table to help our cause, but what if they say no to you?

Kerry: Well, I have a lot of tools available to me. This president has not done the statesmanship and has not shown the leadership to bring other countries to us. Their resistance to [helping in] Iraq is not only based on Iraq: It's based on the fact that the United States is now pursuing new nuclear weapons, even as we talk about other countries not having them. It's based on the fact that we walked away from the global warming treaty and we dissed 160 nations that worked 10 years to try to build a cooperative attitude. Only the U.S. said "no" and walked away. We haven't paid attention to North Korea, nuclear weapons there. We've ignored AIDS in Africa and elsewhere in the world. So we need to show global, moral, responsible leadership, and if we do that we're going to be far more inviting to other nations to come to our side. In addition, the president has done almost nothing to reduce the increasing clash of radical Islam with moderate Islam and the rest of the world's religions. We need to reach out to people and isolate the fundamentalist extremists and not have them isolate us. That's a big difference. I'll conduct a foreign policy that lives up to America's values, I'll conduct a war that makes America safer, and I will win friends and allies to our side.

Yago: How long do you think American troops are going to have to serve in Iraq?

Kerry: As short a time as possible if I'm president. I would like to get those troops home, and I think I have some ways of beginning to do it. ... I've worked with these leaders of many of these other countries. I know that I can sit down and get them to see our mutual interest in not having a failed Iraq. But it can not be a United States driven, a United States occupied, United States military, United States tax-payer-funded effort. It has to be a more responsible global effort, and I think this president has put our troops at greater risk, I think that he's put the taxpayers at a greater burden, and I think he has not fought a war as safely and as effectively as possible.

Yago: Now, we hear a lot about threats, whether it's al Qaeda, countries like North Korea or Iran. When you're president, how do you determine when to send in troops and use the military?

Kerry: Last resort. When it's necessary to protect the vital security of the United States of America — and I've defended my country as a young man, I've fought in a war — I won't hesitate to defend our nation as president. But I will do it understanding the responsibilities of the commander in chief. I'm never going to send young Americans into war without a plan to win the peace. And I'm going to do it in a way that allows me to look their parents in the eyes if they're lost and say to those parents, "I did everything possible, but the risk to our country was so great we had to do this." I don't believe that was the situation in Iraq, nor do most Americans.

Yago: Do you think another terrorist attack is inevitable?

Kerry: The likelihood is that there will be another terrorist attack, sure. You can't harden every target in America. If someone wants to kill themselves, it's not hard to find a way and a place to do that somehow. The test is whether or not we've done everything possible, executed all the options available to us to make America as safe as possible. I don't believe we've done that today. Our ports are not as secure as they should be. We're not inspecting as many containers as we should to deter problems. We don't have the firehouses with the complement of staff they ought to have, we're cutting cops from the American streets. We don't have the protection of power plants, nuclear and chemical [facilities] that we ought to have. So there's more that we can do to protect America, and I think this president diverted the focus of homeland security and the war on terror in Afghanistan and we're paying an incredible price for that.
Updated On: 9/9/04 at 07:04 PM
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"In addition, the president has done almost nothing to reduce the increasing clash of radical Islam with moderate Islam and the rest of the world's religions. We need to reach out to people and isolate the fundamentalist extremists and not have them isolate us. That's a big difference."

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I understand that everyone is looking at the US election through their own filters... If you're gay, then gay marriage is a big issue... But for those who are worried about the US' national security, or the general state of the WORLD, for that matter -- the above is a big reason why some us find the prospect of having another 4 years of Bush so terrifying.
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