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CNN Today

Kissinger: Bush is Fully Qualified for Foreign Policy Decisions

Aired August 3, 2000 - 2:46 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush's acceptance speech tonight is expected to include a section on world affairs.

And who better to talk about that, than former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, whom I have been chatting with.

Nice to see you.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be here.

ALLEN: How are you doing.

KISSINGER: OK.

ALLEN: You talked with your friend, first of all, let's talk about your old -- Ford, you haven't talked with him but you hope to.

KISSINGER: No, I haven't talked to him but I've talked to his secretary and we've passed messages back and forth between the family and me. And they tell me he's improved a lot. And I'm hoping to see him tomorrow morning.

ALLEN: I'm sure that will cheer him up, to have a visit from you, and the doctors did say, just a short while ago, he's expected make a full recovery.

KISSINGER: That is what I am told.

ALLEN: So everyone is happy about that. Well, we are glad to have you with us to talk, just a moment, about the speech tonight, and what we may hear from George W. Bush.

First let's talk about his experience. Richard Nixon had experience in foreign policy, but you were the true expert behind him and his work. George W. Bush doesn't...

KISSINGER: He knew a lot about foreign policy, Richard Nixon.

ALLEN: We will give him credit for that.

KISSINGER: Good.

ALLEN: George W. Bush doesn't have vast experience, how could that effect this country's foreign policy?

KISSINGER: Well, you never can get, with a range of issues the president has to deal with, a president who knows every issue equally well. George W. Bush has most of his experience in domestic politics -- policy. But he's had a relationship with Mexico, of course, as governor of Texas. And he has in Cheney, a man with a lot of experience in foreign policy. And he, himself, has strong, basic judgments. So I think the combination of the two, plus people that I have seen around him, is a very strong foreign policy team.

ALLEN: He'll get a lot of the on-the-job training if he gets the job, certainly, as well.

KISSINGER: Very quickly.

ALLEN: Let's talk about one of the issues we may hear a lot about in the next four years, and that's a national missile defense system. Bush supports a large scale system. Gore supports the limited system and many of our allies have said, don't go there.

What's your opinion here?

KISSINGER: Well, first of all, among our allies, this is largely an issue of domestic politics for most of our allies. The allies who are complaining about it, mostly, many of them socialist governments that have moved to the center, and they are throwing, throwing some raw meat to their traditional left. Because it's sort of a standard position. And I think once the United States puts forward a serious proposal. We will get a much better discussion.

Now the issue is not between a limited defense and a big defense. The issue is, what are we trying to do here? and I don't think that the president of the United States can say: I want to keep my country vulnerable against some foreseeable attacks. So what the administration has done is to try to squeeze a lot of considerations into a compromise proposal which will wind up with the worst of all worlds.

What George Bush has done, is to say: When I come in, I'm going to look at a defense that makes sense, technologically, politically and I will bring about an international environment in which it's going to take place. And I believe that he can do it. But one has to stop playing politics with it. Everyone has to stop doing it as a compromise without ever having to explain to the American public exactly what the issue is.

ALLEN: China: Bush says he would like to redefine that relationship from one as strategic partners, as the Democrats define it now, to strategic competitors.

KISSINGER: Well, I don't think China's a strategic partner, but I also don't think we need to say it is a strategic competitor. And I think the better -- this is the platform, this isn't what Bush necessarily says. I think, in the real world, what will happen is that our relation will define itself by how well we, in fact, managed to deal with issues. And then, whether you call it one thing or another, it's not the key issue.

I believe relations with China are a key part of our foreign policy. This used to be -- this has been the consistent position. And from my conversations, I believe that relations with China will be strong in a Bush administration, whatever label they put on it.

ALLEN: Finally, let's talk about this convention of "nice." You and I were talking. You've been to many conventions. How does this compare to some of the big fights that you saw at conventions in the past?

KISSINGER: Well, I've been now at almost every convention since, oh, I'm getting old, since 1964. And so I was at the Goldwater convention, and there, of course, was a tremendous brawl between the liberal and the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Then in '76, there was a brawl between the Reagan wing and the Ford wing. And so I've seen brawls and I've seen nice atmospheres. Nice is easier to live in than when there are brawls, but brawls are more exciting.

ALLEN: Right, and the media would probably agree with you, they are more exciting.

KISSINGER: But I think this is a very constructive atmosphere. The Republican Party obviously thinks -- and I agree with them -- that they have a chance of winning and they don't want to emphasize their divisions. And there aren't very -- I don't know of any significant divisions. So they want to appear, and have a right to appear, as what they are, namely agreeing on main fundamentals.

ALLEN: Well, you'll have a front row seat tonight for the big speech, and we thank you for stopping in this afternoon, Mr. Kissinger.

KISSINGER: Thank you, I look forward to it. Thank you.

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