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Interview from Camp Kerry

Interview from Camp Kerry

By William Rivers Pitt
From: t r u t h o u t | Interview Tuesday 11 January 2005


I spent some time today with Cameron Kerry, the younger brother of Senator John Kerry. A May 04 2004 Boston Herald article on Cam Kerry described him this way: "He doesn't draw screaming headlines or grab face time on the political talk show circuit, but low-key Cameron Kerry has emerged as one of U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry's most powerful and trusted campaign advisers this election season. The senator's younger brother, known as Cam, is playing the same pivotal role that the late Robert F. Kennedy played for his older brother back in 1960: confidant, adviser and powerful inside player. It's a mission that stretches far beyond simple family loyalty and brotherhood...'Cam Kerry is a force in the campaign, make no mistake about that,' said one veteran political strategist with strong ties to Kerry. 'He's at the core of Kerry's inner circle.'" The interview dealt mostly with the ongoing debate over election reform, but touched as well upon Senator Kerry's recent trip to Iraq.

William Rivers Pitt: What is the impression of the Kerry campaign on the events of last Thursday in Congress, with the Electoral College hearing and the challenge to the certification of the Ohio Electors?

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Cameron Kerry: It was something that we welcomed. It put a spotlight on the issues of election reform. We have made some progress on that since 2000, but we still have a long way to go. This election, particularly in Ohio, showed that. I think the action the other day helped to highlight that, as John indicated in his statement. He was very much in sympathy with it, though he was not there in joining it.

William Rivers Pitt: Does it surprise you that Senator Boxer was the only Senator to vote against certification?

Cameron Kerry: I think a lot of people are now looking at the issue, and a lot of people stood up and said there are ongoing problems. There were people also looking at it in terms of whether that would change the outcome, whether it would be looking backwards instead of looking forward. What Rep. Tubbs-Jones had to say was basically forward-looking. One of the reasons we need election reform is that what has been done on reform didn't prevent abuses. Despite all of the oversight and a lot of things that were stopped, we don't have the tools and the remedies for this watch.

William Rivers Pitt: There are a lot of people who don't understand why Senator Kerry chose not to be in the Senate for the Thursday challenge. A lot of people believe he should have been the one to stand up and be the challenger. There are a lot of political implications here, and I am wondering if you might explain the thinking on this.

Cameron Kerry: I have talked to a number of the Congressional members involved. Many of them feel that it was better without John involved, that it put the focus on the issue and not on him. It took away the Republican argument that this was just about sour grapes. Had John led the protest, we would have heard that a hundred times.

William Rivers Pitt: You believe it would have torpedoed the boat before it ever got out of the dock?

Cameron Kerry: I think that's absolutely right. I think this was a moving event that was focused on the issue, and at the end of it, it was forward-looking.

William Rivers Pitt: Senator Kerry filed what has been described as a "Me, too" motion in the Yost case in Ohio, the purpose of which is to preserve evidence and try to get depositions of the people involved. Are you aware of any movement or progress with that? Do you know when the judge is planning to rule?

Cameron Kerry: No, I haven't heard. I have been in pretty regular touch with the Ohio lawyers, but I haven't talked to them in a week or so, so I haven't heard.

William Rivers Pitt: It was the issues and suspicions surrounding Triad Systems and their voting machines that motivated Senator Kerry to enter that matter?

Cameron Kerry: Yes. That is one of the things that is highly suspect. Look, Kenneth Blackwell's conduct throughout this election, going back months beforehand and through the recount, has been disgraceful. What people have to recognize is that the election protection effort, with 3,300 Kerry/Edwards lawyers who were there on the ground, plus other lawyers, the voter protection project, and other efforts out there did a lot. They dealt with this ridiculous business of the paper weight on the voter registration and put a stop to that. The Republican effort to mount challenges, they put a stop to it. The efforts to exclude reporters and exit pollers from the polls, they put a stop to that.

The malfunctions in machines in Mahoning County, they put a stop to that. They put a lot of focus on the incredible amounts of time the students at Kent had to wait. There were people there to bring them food, and there were people there who offered those in line paper ballots. They didn't want paper ballots. They wanted to get in there and cast their votes the regular way. One of the reasons we know about all these things is because there were people there observing and recording, and they prevented a lot of the large problems. Did they prevent everything? No. Were there people who were disenfranchised? Yes. Were there mistakes and irregularities and fraud? Yes. I think this was a closer election than 119,000 votes.

William Rivers Pitt: Ohio wasn't the only state where there were problems in this last election. There was also New Mexico.

Cameron Kerry: I think New Mexico is a fascinating case. I think people there are doing a great job putting together data that shows some very convincing anomalies that could change the outcome. I think it's something that needs to go forward because it is really about counting the votes and not ultimately about the outcome of the election as a whole.

My understand is essentially that if Governor Richardson gives the go-ahead for a partial recount, they can get started on that. It is a pretty convincing case, with serious anomalies in Native American and Hispanic voting areas.

William Rivers Pitt: Are they concerned in New Mexico about how this recount will proceed? I ask because the main problem with the recent Ohio recount was that it was supposed to be a random recount, but representatives from Triad, the company that had their voting machines in 41 Ohio counties, found out ahead of time which 'random' counties would be recounted. They went around to those counties and made sure that the machine count would match the hand count. This basically obviated the basic premise of the recount, that being the selection of random counties. Will the people in New Mexico be keeping an eye on things like this?

Cameron Kerry: What I gather is that people have negotiated in New Mexico, and that Cobb and Badnarik will select the ten percent, something like ten percent or thereabouts, of the precincts to be recounted.

William Rivers Pitt: Cobb and Badnarik will be selecting these?

Cameron Kerry: That is my understanding.

William Rivers Pitt: Given all this, are there any regrets on the part of Senator Kerry or anyone else from the campaign about that Wednesday morning concession?

Cameron Kerry: At the end of the day, no. I think it was closer, but I am a lawyer, and I'm going to deal with evidence. I have to deal with what I think a court would do. That's the kind of judgments I make. That was a judgment I participated in. A lot of people who know how to count votes, how votes are counted, people who went through Florida in 2000 and have been through other recounts, have been through a lot of tough battles, would have loved nothing better than to do battle with Karl Rove and James Baker again, to take them on and give them their own back.

But we looked at it hard, and there just wasn't the kind of razor-thin margin that we had in Florida in 2000 to work with, or that Christine Gregoire was dealing with in Washington State. The three million vote margin nationally made it difficult, but there was enough of a margin in Ohio that I think we could have closed that margin but would still have been some tens of thousands of votes short.

William Rivers Pitt: There is an impressive coalition building around the need for election reform. There is Congressman Conyers, Rep. Tubbs-Jones, Senator Boxer, Reverend Jackson, Cobb and Badnarik of the Green and Libertarian parties, along with an activated base. There are a lot of people who feel very strongly that the time has come to fix the way we run elections in this country, and I am wondering where the Senator stands on that, and if he has any plans to join this group and this cause.

Cameron Kerry: Absolutely. One of the earliest things he is going to work on is election reform. We've got to make the process transparent, whether it is the counting of votes or the code on the machines. That is basic to the electoral process. That is one of the great virtues of paper ballots. People can sit there and watch the counting. I've been through that in past elections, and it's a great ritual. We've got to strengthen the remedies that deal with voter suppression; challenges based on race ought to be prima facie violations of voting rights. There have to be standard for the allocation of voting machines.

William Rivers Pitt: Do you foresee a push for national standards for elections? One of the arguments put forward on this looks at Pennsylvania in this last election, and the fact that voters were casting their ballots on four different kinds of systems in that state. Had their been a challenge to the outcome there, it would have been bedlam. The different systems would have made the recount process a madhouse. Does the Senator have any thoughts on advocating for national standards on elections?

Cameron Kerry: Yes. We've got a federal constitution guaranteeing the right to vote, and the 14th Amendment says Congress can enact laws to protect that right. The tools are there to do it. This is too important, and I think there will be ways to get it done.

William Rivers Pitt: Will Senator Kerry be speaking on these matters anytime soon?

Cameron Kerry: I'm sure that he will be. I don't recall his timetable to get a proposal out there for election reform, but he is going to do that soon.

William Rivers Pitt: Your brother has been travelling around a little bit lately. Can you give me a recap on what he has been up to?

Cameron Kerry: He spent part of last week in Iraq, not only in Baghdad but also in Fallujah and Mosul.

William Rivers Pitt: That's a tough couple of neighbourhoods.

Cameron Kerry: I'll tell you, I don't know a lot of people making that trip. Reporters and most of the people going over there are camped out in Baghdad.

William Rivers Pitt: What was the purpose behind his trip?

Cameron Kerry: He wanted to see things first-hand, and wanted the chance to talk to troops, to thank some of the people from Massachusetts who are over there, and just to get an on-the-ground view.


William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'


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