John Kerry for President, Inc. - Town Hall Meeting
30-minute live, unscripted and unedited town hall meeting with undecided Iowa caucus goers aired on seven stations across Iowa on Dec. 14, 2003.  Broadcast live from WQAD in Moline, IL (Quad Cities) and carried on KWWL in Cedar Rapids; on WHO in Des Moines; on KTTC in Mason City; on KTVO in Ottumwa; on KETV in Council Bluffs; and on KTIV in Sioux City.
[Broadcast opens with 60-second TV spot "Courage" from September.]    partial transcript

AMY JOHNSON BOYLE:  Good afternoon everyone and welcome to this town hall meeting originating from the studios of WQAD Television in the Quad Cities and broadcast live around the state of Iowa.  I'm Amy Johnson Boyle from the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.  For the next 30 minutes, you're going to get a chance to meet and hear from the man who could be our next president of the United States, Senator John Kerry.

This show is entirely live, unscripted and unedited.  The people in the studio have been chosen to be here because like many of you at home they're undecided about  their choice for president.  They're ready to ask the tough questions and find out who John Kerry really is and what kind of president he would be.  We hope to answer as many questions as possible during the next 30 minutes both from those of you in the audience that you see in here today and those of you at home who are logged onto the website  With that in mind I ask you to please keep your questions short and to the point so we can get to as many of you as possible. 

And now let me introduce Senator John Kerry.

KERRY:  Amy, thank you, thank you very much for being here today.  And thank you all for being patient.  I really appreciate your hanging in here with us today.  And I'm very, very grateful to the Quad Cities and everybody for participating today. 

Let me just share a couple of quick thoughts with you because I really want to get to your questions as quickly as I can. 

Obviously today is a big day--monumental event, capturing Saddam Hussein.  We are thrilled, all of us.  This is an important event for Iraq; it's important for our soldiers.  We have some 4,000 guardsmen  from Iowa who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we've lost nine sons of Iowa in these last months.  So for those families that are feeling the real pain and the burden of this, we're elated that this may be one step further down the road. 

But we deserve diplomacy that's as good as our troops.  We deserve to have a policy that is now going to reach out.  This is a great moment for the president of the United States.  It is a moment to reach out to the world with some humility and recognize that everybody has a stake in the outcome in Iraq.  I hope the President will take advantage of that moment, because nothing will advance us further than to reduce the sense of American occupation of a Middle Eastern country.

Secondly, powerful, powerful interests prevent us from getting health care, prevent people from getting a real prescription drug benefit, prevent us from funding our education system.  I've got a record of taking on those interests and delivering.  And I'm running for president because I believe we need leadership that recognizes the dangerous world we're in today and the need to build relationships, but also recognizes that we're not going to be strong abroad if we're not strong here at home.   That's why I'm running for president; that's why love to have your help.

Now, I want you to ask me tough questions; I want to get as many in as I can so I'll try to go through them  as rapidly as I can.

Let's have some fun.  Have at me.  Grill me.  Test me.  See if I've got what it takes to be your president, and I hope I can convince you.

Who wants to be first?

Wow, you're ready.

QUESTION:  Respecting your right to be pro-choice, I'm opposed to Wade vs. Roe.  Will it be a litmus test for you when it comes to appointing people to the Supreme Court that they be pro-choice?

KERRY:  Whether you call it a litmus test or not is your choice, but I believe that Roe v. Wade represents a constitutional right, and I will protect constitutional rights in the appointments I make to the Supreme Court.  So I will want to make certain that a Supreme Court justice will uphold all the rights in the Constitution--Roe v. Wade, the right to choose, but also civil rights, the Bill of Rights, and I think we need a president who does that.  Now obviously I respect your opinion; I respect people who differ with me.  I have voted for many justices in other courts who don't share my opinion.  But right now the Supreme Court is too close to take a chance, and I will appoint somebody to the Supreme Court who protects that right.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There's a disturbing statistic in this country that keeps rearing up that there is about a 70 percent unemployment rate among people with disabilities.  And that's due to many things--expensive technology that they can't afford, transportation limitations, especially public transportation, no personal assistance or limited personal assistance for people who want to live in their own communities.  And I would just like to know what you would do as president to work on the issues to bring that statistic down so that people with disabilities are working along side everyone else.

KERRY:  I will work very hard as I have, even as a Senator, to try to make certain that we can mainstream people with disabilities into the workplace of America.  The Americans with Disabilities Act, which Tom Harkin is the father of and did such a superb job putting in place, is the key.  And unfortunately this administration is trying to walk backwards on the requirements of it.  I will appoint an Attorney General, obviously whose name is not John Aschroft, who will protect, who will protect the rights of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, Title IX, the Family & Medical Leave Act, all of which help people to be able to have a better quality of life.

Secondly, quickly, I'll tell you, when I first came to the United States Senate, I was on the committee that dealt with issues of how we mainstream people who are physically challenged into the community.  And we worked at providing support for technology, for assisted/assistive[?] devices that help people to be able to work just like anybody else in the workplace.  I'm going to continue to do that to make sure we mainstream everybody possible.

Anybody else over here?  Let me try to be an equal opportunity side-- yes.

QUESTIONER:  Okay thanks.

KERRY:  What's your name; I really would like--


KERRY:  Esther.  And what do you do, Esther?

ESTHER:  I'm a teacher. 

KERRY:  Great.

ESTHER:  But my question today is about the capture of Saddam.  I see a lot of people are going to think of this as a justification for the invasion of Iraq, even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found.  And I see this really broad base of support for the war on terrorism which to me does not appear to be effective.  There's a feeling of us against the world that Bush seems to be promoting even.  How would you turn this around so that you could defeat Bush in the general election?

KERRY:  Let me say to all of you that we are going to need a nominee of our party who can stand up to President Bush and make sure that we convince Americans of our ability to make our country safe in a very difficult time.  I have 35 years of experience of leading in foreign policy, national security and military issues.  I believe that the capture of Saddam Hussein is helpful and it's a great moment, but it's a moment.  And it is not the central part of the war on terror.


On the screen
Notes and Observations