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Transcript: Kerry on NBC's 'Meet the Press'

And the man who runs the poll, David Paleologos, has said that "Massachusetts voters have built a presidential ceiling over John Kerry's head."

Six out of 10 Massachusetts voters don't want you to run again. Why?

Friday's Question:
It was not until the early 20th century that the Senate enacted rules allowing members to end filibusters and unlimited debate. How many votes were required to invoke cloture when the Senate first adopted the rule in 1917?

KERRY: Well, Tim, if you ask me about polls today, you're going to get one of the sort of quick and easy dismissals of all politics, because I'm a poll expert. And if you'll recall, every poll in the country eliminated me from the race in December prior to Iowa, and I turned around and won. And every poll eliminated me two or three times from even making the race close.

So I think polls today are almost irrelevant, and I just don't pay any attention to them.

RUSSERT: One area that many Democrats were concerned was leftover money. This is the way one of the papers, the New York Times, reported it:

"Senator John Kerry had more than $14 million in one of his election accounts in late November, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission, causing some Democrats to complain that he should have spent all of it to defeat President Bush or help other Democratic candidates."

Why did you hold that money? Why didn't you spend it on yourself and other Democrats?

KERRY: Well, we spent unprecedented sums on other Democrats around the country. No candidate has ever given as much money as I did to the Democratic Committee. We gave $40 million. I gave $3 million, $4 million, to the DSCC, to the Democratic Senate Committee. I gave $3 million to the House committee. We gave money to parties, to the degree that every state director wanted.

And the reason we had some of the money left over is that, as you know, I wanted to hold my -- I wanted to accept the nomination later. There was an uproar in the party. People didn't want you to accept it because there was a 13-week general election for our campaign and an eight-week general election for the Republicans. We couldn't spend the money legally in the month of August.

We had the money held in reserve in the event that some state director said, "We desperately need the money," and we gave more money than the directors seemed to be able to -- money was not an issue in the outcome of what happened in this race.

RUSSERT: How much do you have left?

KERRY: I don't know what it is now, because we've paid extra costs of the campaign. We still have audits. I gave $1 million to the Senate Campaign Committee. I gave $250,000 to Christine Gregoire's recount in Washington. I gave $50,000 to a House race in Louisiana.

RUSSERT: A few more dollars...

KERRY: So we're trying to build parties.

RUSSERT: ... a few more television ads in Ohio may have turned over those 70,000 voters?

KERRY: There was no request for them. Could it, in retrospect? It's conceivable, but there was no demand at that point in time. People thought they had what they needed.

RUSSERT: The 15 Democratic senators who won across the country all had more votes than you in each of their respective states. Why do you think that is?

KERRY: Because the vote for president is different. Because security was the overwhelming issue. And because there was, as I said, a 9/11 hurdle.

There's a lot of evidence in the aftermath of the analysis that people found it hard to shift commander in chief in midstream. And, you know, I can understand. That's a difficult hurdle to get over. It's never been -- nobody's ever gotten over it in history, and this was no exception.

RUSSERT: During the campaign you said that Howard Dean did not have the credibility or judgment to be president. Do you believe he has the credibility or judgment to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee?

KERRY: Sure, absolutely.

RUSSERT: Do you support him?

KERRY: I think Howard Dean proved during this campaign that he was really a loyal and go-to person. I mean, he campaigned his heart out for me, and he wanted us to win. And I'm very grateful to him for that -- as did every other member who's running, incidentally, every other person running for the chairmanship. They worked hard. They're capable people. And I think any one of them would be able to lead our party and be helpful.

And, you know, we're not looking for a spokesperson in the chairmanship. I think if you talk to any of my colleagues or any people in the House or Senate or others, what we're looking for is somebody who's going to help the party modernize and do the things we need to do in order to be able to technically, organizationally, structurally be able to catch up to the Republicans. We're behind.

And I think that, you know, if you figure -- I mean, Karl Rove really had six years to prepare for Election Day. We, in many ways, had only a few months, notwithstanding the outstanding work that Terry McAuliffe did.

But Terry McAuliffe was struggling uphill. We didn't have a president, we didn't have a House, we didn't have a Senate. He did an amazing job of raising money, getting voter lists, putting the committee in the best position possible.

But he'd be the first to tell you, we still have a distance to travel in order to catch up. And I think whoever is chosen as our new chairman, we're going to have a united Democratic Party that is working overtime to put those pieces in place.

RUSSERT: Some Democrats and many Republicans believe that Howard Dean is too liberal to be chairman of the Democratic Party. Do you agree?

KERRY: No, I don't agree with that. I think, in fact, if you look at Howard's record as a governor, he was a strong balance-the- budget governor. He was conservative on a lot of issues. And I think that's part of what happens in campaigns. You get these stamps and broad brushes that aren't exactly accurate.

RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back and talk about Social Security and a whole lot of other issues.

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, is our guest. We'll be right back with more.


RUSSERT: And we are back.

Senator, as you said, a lot of the voters thought about security, 9/11. But many thought about social and cultural values.

And you seem to reflect that in a Newsweek magazine article after the campaign. Let's read it here.

"The week after Thanksgiving 2004, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank them. When Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political network EMILY's List, asked about the future direction of the party, Kerry tackled one of the Democrats' core tenets, abortion rights. He told the group they needed new ways to make people understand they didn't like abortion. Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party. `There was a gasp in the room,' says Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America."

Is that accurate?

KERRY: It's pretty accurate, sure.

RUSSERT: Why and how do you believe the Democrats can broaden the base with pro-life Democrats when the party seems to require down- the-line voting in terms of abortion rights?

KERRY: We have pro-life Democrats today. Harry Reid is a leader. He is pro-life. We have others who are pro-life.

I think what I was saying, Tim, is that, you know, you can't be doctrinarian negative against somebody simply because they have that position. There's more to it.

Now, does that change the position of the Democratic Party in defending the right to choose? No, absolutely not, not in the least.

But you can't be -- I mean, let me phrase it this way: Too many people in America believe that if you are pro-choice that means pro- abortion. It doesn't. I don't want abortion. Abortion should be the rarest thing in the world. I am actually personally opposed to abortion.

But I don't believe that I have a right to take what is an article of faith to me and legislate it to other people. That's not how it works in America.

So you have to have room to be able to talk about these things in a rational way.

We also need -- I mean, I thought Hillary gave a good speech the other way in which she talked about the need -- and many of us have talked about this for a long period of time. The discussion is not about being pro-abortion. The discussion is about how you truly value life. Valuing life is also valuing choice. Valuing life is the exception for the life of a mother or rape or incest. I mean, there are all kinds of values here.

And in addition to that, we ought to be making certain that people understand there are other options. Abstinence is worth talking about. Adoption is worth talking about. There are many things we can do.

And do you know that, in fact, abortion has gone up in these last few years with the draconian policies that Republicans have, where they talk about it but they do nothing to find this kind of place of discussion. And under President Clinton, abortion went down because we did have adequate family-planning services, because we talked about counseling, adoption and other kinds of things.

RUSSERT: How about parental notification, where a 16, 17...

KERRY: I think it's important. I'm for parental notification.

RUSSERT: With a judicial bypass?

KERRY: With a judicial and doctor combined -- I think you have to have some kind of adult involvement in the life of a young child to make a choice like that.

But you can't have one that drags on administratively or that you can't have finality. It has to be done rapidly. It has to be done, you know, with certitude. And it has to be done sensitively in a way that sort of brings the parties together necessarily.

RUSSERT: Would you introduce that legislation that would have that at the federal level?

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