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Text: Sen. Kennedy on the Future of the Democratic Party

Well, Senator, those are studies. Let's get to practical realities.

Practical reality -- look at the cost of a hospital bed in the V.A. In the period the last five years, they have actually declined in the cost per patient.

Do you think that Great Britain has just invested $15 billion to $20 billion to make sure that their whole system is doing it? Every other country in the world. Australia has just done this and they're seeing remarkable savings. Every one is doing this, except the United States.

There was $50 million proposed by Secretary Thompson in the omnibus and that was struck. We have to get with it. This is hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used in terms of the coverage.

Now, let me just say finally on it that we have bipartisan -- Senator Frist is very interested in this, Senator Grassley, Senator Baucus, who's got joint jurisdiction between our Finance Committees. We've talked to him. Newt Gingrich has written a book about it.

I think it is an area that I just wish the administration would grasp ahold of, because the savings would be extraordinary. They may want to use the money one way, I might want to use it another, but let's move ahead and try and make some progress.

That's two out of three. I don't know what the -- a long enough answer.

MODERATOR: This person asks, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected with over 80 percent of the vote, and over a million of those voters were also President Bush voters. What did Senator Obama do that Senator Kerry and other Democrats not do?

And do you think the Democrats need to move toward the center to recapture the majority position?

And finally, If a Democrat wins the next presidential election, what are the most difficult problems he or she will face in 2008?

KENNEDY: There you go.

Why don't we just ask Osama bin -- Osama Obama -- Obama what -- since he won by such a big amount. Seriously, Senator Obama is really unique and special.

He was a community activist. He was out there on the streets pulling different groups together in Chicago. He was working with families out there about family needs and he rang the bell in Illinois.

He talked about that, but he also talked about bringing people together. You'll all have a good chance to hear him, I'm sure, often.

But I think -- I would hope that Senator Obama would agree with most of what I had to say today. I'll send him a copy. I'll let you know.

I think what do we need to do to get to the majority position? I tried to outline that today. I think we have to speak to the -- we are facing this whole quest of globalization.

The question is are we going to be consumed by it with outsourcing, lower wages, people losing their jobs, their health care, part-time workers concerned about the deterioration in the schools, or are we going to grasp it?

And my suggestion today is we grasp it and equip every American to be able to deal with it and our country to deal with it. But I think that is an issue that has to be debated. I think it'll be, myself, will be an important issue.

I'm not sure what that third one -- if a Democrat wins the next election what'll be the most difficult problems? Well, I tried to outline some of them earlier.

MODERATOR: One quick question, Will you vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice and Albert Gonzalez? Why or why not?

KENNEDY: Well, I'm going to wait with the Condoleezza Rice. We haven't had any hearings on Condoleezza Rice. She obviously comes highly recommended and highly regarded. I think she'll have questions about her role in terms of what was represented to the American people on the buildup of the Iraq war.

I found that Mr. Gonzalez before the Judiciary Committee left a lot to be desired in terms of his response to the questions. He couldn't remember when he met with the Central Intelligence Agency.

He couldn't remember what he did when they redistributed the memoranda to him, even though it was directed to him. He was thinking a lot about it.

And I've sent him follow-up questions to be able to help clarify this.

I think there's a general desire to let the president have his own advisers. We have one standard for those that are going to be the president's advisers.

You have a second standard, obviously, for judges, a higher standard for circuit court judges, which will start to interpret constitutional issues, and the highest standard for the Supreme Court.

And so there's a general disposition in favor of the president having the advisers that he wants, and I think that's the way that it should be.

But the whole issue of torture has been such a blot on everything this country stands for and what we represent, it's very important that the American people know that for the chief law enforcement official -- exactly what his role was and how he explains it. I think the American people are entitled to it. I hope we get the answer.

MODERATOR: Senator Kennedy, I'd like to thank you for coming and speaking with us today. And I'd like to present to you our certificate of appreciation, suitably framed. And also I'd like to present to you the coveted National Press Club mug.

KENNEDY: Oh, my God.

(APPLAUSE)

That is beautiful. Look at this. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

MODERATOR: He likes it. He really, really likes it.

(LAUGHTER)

OK, I have a last question. Something happened last year that few people thought possible: The Red Sox won the pennant. What odds do you give the Congress amending the Constitution to allow non- naturalized Americans to run for president?

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY: You hear that, Eunice? You hear that?

(LAUGHTER)

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the New England Patriots and what they're going to do with the Indianapolis Colts this weekend up in Foxboro.

Thank you very much. It's an honor to be with you.

(APPLAUSE)


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