This morning on “Starting Point,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) weighs in on how he thinks Mitt Romney and President Obama fared in the final debate before election day.
Sen. Kerry says Romney’s arguments were the weakest in the debate. “I was stunned by a candidate who came and shifted almost all his positions, and he’s hiding his positions,” he says. “His real positions have been the ones you’ve been hearing for months.”
“Soledad, he’s been running for president for seven years,” Kerry adds. “He has either been lying to the base, the Republican base, ought to be outraged today because the man who’s been running to win the nomination was taking a whole bunch of different positions.”
Here’s another clip from the interview. Transcript available after the jump.
O’BRIEN: Let’s get right to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. He portrayed Governor Mitt Romney in the mock debates with the President. So when you were watching your candidate, and you, of course, had played the challenger, how do you think he did?
SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think every insta-poll in the country says the President won. Some say he won overwhelmingly by 20 points, some by 10 points. But overwhelmingly last night the President of the United States was the commander in chief, and Mitt Romney, I hate to say it, was the campaigner in confusion –
O’BRIEN: You don’t hate to say it.
KERRY: I don’t, because I, you know, I’d like to be able to say it. But honestly I was stunned by a candidate who came and shifted almost all his positions, and he’s hiding his positions. I mean, his real positions have been the ones you’ve been hearing for months.
Criticizing the President on Iran, last night he agreed with him. Criticizing the President on Syria, well, he had a few nibbles but basically said how complicated it was, he agreed with him.
Libya, wound up agreeing with him. Afghanistan, actually changed his position last night from saying that he didn’t think we should set a date and get out, last night he set a firm date.
This is just a man who you can’t send messages like that to the world that you really don’t have a position.
O’BRIEN: When I spoke to Senator Portman this morning he said, listen, that was – that’s an intelligent thing to do, right. You deal with your –
KERRY: That’s etch-a-sketch.
O’BRIEN: I’m dealing with what he said. That was an admission on my show. I remember etch-a-sketch. What he said, he positioned that as a rational thing to do, to sit down with your military advisers and come up with a timetable to leave.
KERRY: Soledad, he’s been running for president for seven years. He has either been lying to the base, the Republican base, ought to be outraged today because the man who’s been running to win the nomination was taking a whole bunch of different positions.
Now he steps up and says different – look, this is Mitt Romney and the place people should be most frightened about is on the economy. Because Mitt Romney has signed a pledge to a lobbyist, the same lobbyist who has gridlocked Washington, and you know this –
O’BRIEN: You’re talking about Grover Norquist.
KERRY: Grover Norquist. He gridlocked the “Super Committee” because people on the “Super Committee” signed a pledge saying we won’t raise revenue. Romney’s tripled down on saying no revenue.
So if he were elected he’s promising four more years of gridlock in Washington because that’s the formula. Either he’s not telling the truth to the Republican base, he signed the pledge and it doesn’t mean anything.
Or, he is telling the truth and you have gridlock. You can’t have it both ways. This is a man who has a one-point plan for America. A tax cut of $5 trillion. You extend the Bush tax cuts by 20 percent –
O’BRIEN: But last night was about foreign policy. And – let’s get back to foreign policy. It is.
KERRY: Soledad, it is foreign policy. Because if you don’t have a strong economy, you can’t be strong abroad and you can’t carry out a foreign policy. Mitt Romney’s policy is to go back to the economy that we had before.
BASH: On foreign policy, you are the Senate Foreign Relations chairman. You travel abroad all the time. Does Mitt Romney have a point that the perception of the world, supposed to get so much of the United States was supposed to get so much better after George W. Bush left and Obama took over and that hasn’t happened?
KERRY: Yes, it has happened. Are you kidding me it hasn’t happened? After Ambassador Stevens was killed, Dana, 30,000 Libyans took their signs, said we love you, Ambassador Stevens. We love you America.
They marched, they marched on the militia headquarters that had done this. They disarmed them themselves. We have changed perceptions throughout that part of the world. Now they’re going through a very complicated moment.
I mean, nobody, no Islamists, and not the United States, told a fruit vendor in Tunisia, you got to – because a police officer slapped you and took away your weighing machine and your ability to sell fruit.
He did that because he was outraged at a government that was oppressing him and that brought all the Tunisians together. Nobody told those people in Tahrir Square, those young people, that wasn’t Islamic.
That was young people, a generational revolution saying, we want jobs, we want an opportunity. That’s what’s happening in the Middle East. We should welcome it, and embrace it, and understand it. President Obama has done that. Mitt Romney’s been hiding behind it.
O’BRIEN: Bret Stevens from “The Wall Street Journal” would disagree. He wrote this, there’s a case to be made that Mr. Obama has been a disengaged, poll driven, inconsistent, credulous steward of American foreign policy.
Mr. Romney didn’t seem interested in making that point I guess and as a matter of politics he didn’t need to make it. His most effective turns in the debate came when he brought it all back to the economy.
He seemed reasonable and tempered and pragmatic and unruffled and therefore presidential. Doesn’t that explain while President Obama who the pollsters showed people polled indicate overwhelmingly he was more on the attack and Mitt Romney was not that that was part of the strategy to appear presidential?
KERRY: Well, if your strategy is to reverse every position you had, two weeks before an election.
well, if your strategy is to reverse every position you had, two weeks before an election.
O’BRIEN: If it makes you reasonable and tempered and pragmatic –
KERRY: So in other words so President Obama has been reasonable –
O’BRIEN: I’m just asking a question, sir. I’m just saying here’s what Brett Stevens from “The Wall Street Journal” –
KERRY: But you can’t trust a candidate for president of the United States if you don’t know what he really believes. Mitt Romney is hiding a bunch of positions. He’s advised by the very same people that brought you Iraq and the years of the, of the decline of our economy.
President Obama has been steady and clear, not only, look on the economy, jobs, record low for four years. On – I mean, on the jobless claims. The job rate is a record low of four years, foreclosures, five-year low. Stock market, almost a record high. 401(k)s, up.
O’BRIEN: Sluggish. Sluggish. Sluggish.
KERRY: Soledad, look at what we had to dig out of. We’re at the brink of taking off. Ask anybody in business. People, the confidence of our country is up.
O’BRIEN: But, you –
KERRY: No, no, no. O’BRIEN: I mean, not everybody agrees with that. KERRY: What they say is we’re on the brink of taking off. Now the President has a five-point plan. Number one, energy, 600,000 jobs in natural gas. We’re going to exploit American energy. We’re going to cut our imports in half.
Jobs. A million manufacturing jobs brought back to the United States and we’re going to cut – double our exports. And we’re going to increase our jobs in the energy sector. Skills –
O’BRIEN: So –
KERRY: He’s going to hire –
O’BRIEN: I’m going to stop you there because the five-point plan we’ve heard about over the last –
KERRY: Everybody’s been complaining he doesn’t. This is –
O’BRIEN: My question is this. It’s neck and neck, 47 percent to 47 percent if you look at national polling. How worried are you about those numbers?
KERRY: I believe that as a result of last night and the last debate before that, the President has made it clear. He has the agenda for the country. The country’s economy is coming back. We’re respected in the world. He’s ended the war in Iraq.
He is ending the war in Afghanistan. He showed clear leadership in Libya. Last night, after all his complaints, Mitt Romney said the President’s done a good job and he’s doing the right thing on Iran. Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. We’ve never been closer in security to Israel, and he’s got the iron dome which is –
BASH: Senator, it’s – it’s – we see now why you were the one who was chosen to play Mitt Romney because he bring it back –
O’BRIEN: He can filibuster out there because we’re out of time. But we want to thank you for talking with us this morning.
KERRY: I’m delighted to be with you.
BASH: Good audition for secretary of state?
KERRY: This is a great audition to go back to Massachusetts.
O’BRIEN: A dodge on that one, a dodge on the secretary of state question. It’s nice to see you, Senator.