Sunday, November 06, 2005

Kerry Coverage in New Hampshire Union Leader

Kerry supports NH primary role
Sunday News Staff

MANCHESTER — If former Democratic Presidential contender U.S. Sen. John Kerry had his way, New Hampshire would keep its first-in-the-nation primary.

The senator from Massachusetts told the Sunday News yesterday he has said as much to party leadership. But whether that view will prevail, as other states jostle to position their own contests earlier in the campaign season, "I can't tell you," he said.

Kerry was back in Manchester yesterday to stump for the city's Democratic mayor, Robert Baines, during a high-spirited rally for campaign staff and volunteers. Smiling and looking relaxed in navy blazer and khakis, Kerry exchanged handshakes and hugs with well-wishers and old friends who had worked on his own campaign here.

In an interview, Kerry said he has "enormous respect" for New Hampshire's way of vetting would-be Presidents and said it made him "a much better candidate."

"New Hampshire is very independent-minded and discerning and very tough and demanding," he said. "It was humbling at times and always educational.

"I have nothing but respect for both the people and the process."

Kerry was asked about the Democrats' move Tuesday to force the Senate into secret session to push for an investigation into pre-war intelligence, something Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist later referred to as a hijacking.

"It is impossible to hijack an institution by its own rules," Kerry said. "And so the Republicans are whining and crying to try to once again hide their unwillingness to tell America the truth. All that we tried to do was hold them accountable, to have the investigation into the intelligence that led America to war that they promised us. And just as they didn't tell us the truth about that, they haven't lived the truth with respect to that investigation."

Kerry said the tactic was effective. "It got what we wanted, and we're moving on.

"And who are they to talk about hijacks when they're the authors of a thing called the 'nuclear option' and they want to terminate the ability of the United States Senate to do what it's done for years," he went on, referring to a procedure some Republicans have threatened to use to stop a possible Democratic filibuster over judicial nominations.

Asked what questions he will have for Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush's new pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Kerry replied, "Lots. More than I can lay out to you today.

"There are a huge number of areas, from various clauses and amendments of the Constitution to his entire judicial philosophy with respect to congressional power and executive power and so forth."

Kerry said races such as Baines' reelection campaign are just the beginning of a vigorous effort by Democrats to regain both relevance and power heading into next year's mid-term elections.

"The Republicans have been putting, over the years, greater energy into that, and we're now very focused and very determined to fight back on the issues that really make a difference to people.

"We don't have any committees, we don't have the White House, we don't have the Supreme Court. So this is where we begin, right here."

A year after his defeat in an election in which some credited religious voters for a key role, Kerry spoke openly about his faith during yesterday's speech to about 200 Democratic loyalists. "In the end, it really comes down to the kind of values you have and how you take those values into public office and live them out. As a Christian, as a Catholic, I think hard about those responsibilities . . . and how to translate them into public life.

"I'm tired of watching people go out and talk about their faith and not go out and live it. . . ," he said, the rest of his words drowned out by cheers.

As for his own Presidential ambitions for 2008, Kerry told the Sunday News he will make that determination "sometime in the future."

How much of that decision will depend on who else is running? "None," he said firmly.

Kerry said he has heard "some wonderful things" from folks all over the country over the past year. Including this: "A lot of Republicans have come up to me and said, 'I wish I could vote again.'


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