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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

John Kerry Speaks at York College

Aired February 23, 2004 - 14:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live to New York, Jamaica, New York specifically. York College. Senator John Kerry is there. He's at the top of the tote board. And undoubtedly going to be taking questions on this very subject. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... having deficits as far as the eye can go, having two million people lose their health insurance, turning your back on kids in schools and not funding No Child Left Behind so we're leaving millions of children behind represents a vision.

That's the truth of what is happening in America today. Tonight you'll hear words, today Americans are living the truth. I think George Bush is on the run. And I think he's on the run because he doesn't have a record to run on.

The real record is a record of job loss, of deficits, of broken promises not to dig into the deficit, not to -- not to leave Americans without health insurance, to provide a prescription drug benefit that drives people off of Medicare into HMOs, raises their costs -- and in fact, rewards the drug companies of our country. Rolls back the environmental laws and turns his back on most of the promises made in his last election.

Tonight will be words. But the life that Americans are leading tells a very different story. And I believe that's what this campaign is about. A real vision for America is a vision that guarantees we are going to fund special needs education.

A real vision for America is a vision that says we're going to provide health care to all Americans.

A real vision for America is a vision that says we're going to take away the rewards for companies that take the jobs overseas and invest in jobs here in America and have a fair playing field for the American worker to compete on. That's a vision. And I will opt for that vision over the course of these next months.

What's interesting is he's chosen to do this before a Democratic nominee has even been selected. Tonight he'll begin his campaign drawing two contrasts that are not real, and there's no nominee. That is its own interesting statement.

So I intend to continue to fight for the nomination of our party. And I will continue to put a real vision in front of this nation.

Be happy to answer any questions.

QUESTION: The Bush/Cheney reelection team says it's not questioning your patriotism, but it's questioning your record -- voting record on defense and intelligence issues. Is your voting record on those issues...

KERRY: That's not what they're doing. That's is just not what they're doing. That's the game they play. That's the game they played with John McCain, as they actually circulated behind the scenes, attacks his behavior as a prisoner of war.

They circulated attacks on Max Cleland's patriotism, whether or not he stood up for the defense of our country. They suggested he was weak.

That's the underlying message of their attack. They haven't come to you and said, this system is a great system. And we need this system and John Kerry voted against the system. They're saying he voted against defense.

And I'm not going to allow these Republicans to somehow suggest that when I have voted for the largest defense budgets in the history of our nation -- I have voted for over $200 billion of increase to the intelligence community since 1996. I voted for the largest intelligence budgets in the history of our country. And I'm not going to let them nickel and dime us on one system or another that was an individual vote.

And I don't know what it is that these Republicans think that they somehow -- you know, those who never fought in a war think they have a leg up on us Democrats who did because they're somehow stronger on defense because they're somehow stronger on defense because they embraced every system that was ever proposed.

That's not the measurement of whether you're strong on defense.

QUESTION: In your letter to President Bush you specifically said he has initiated a wide spread attack on your service in Vietnam. Can you give us any example where Bush...

KERRY: Oh I'll give you an example. They've announced in their preview to "The Washington Post"...

O'BRIEN: All right, we're going to bow out of this and let the press continue to do its work. You heard the voice of Kelly Wallace, CNN correspondent who is following John Kerry. And we will bring you highlights of that -- his responses a little bit later. If not in this hour, certainly on JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS at 3:30 Eastern.

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