More from CBS: Kerry on Letterman

Published September 21, 2004 3:59AM (EDT)

As if the White House needed another reason to complain about CBS, David Letterman played host to John Kerry on the "Late Show" Monday night. While Kerry offered up the requisite yuks -- we'll get to the Top 10 list in a minute -- the appearance wasn't all for laughs. Kerry managed to squeeze in much of his critique of Bush's war in Iraq. And the biggest news of the night: Letterman got to ask questions.

Kerry hasn't taken questions from the press since early August. While Letterman isn't employed by the news division at CBS -- he said he was "out of town when that whole thing happened" -- he conducted something approaching a full-on interview of the candidate. Letterman asked Kerry: "If you had been elected president in 2000 . . . would we be in Iraq now?" Kerry's surprisingly unequivocal answer: "No."

Other highlights: Kerry said he hopes the United States catches Osama bin Laden soon but warned that al Qaida is more than one man. Kerry said he is "glad" he voted against the $87 billion in supplemental funding for Iraq and Afghanistan because "we now see that $20 billion hasn't even been spent effectively" and most of it's "going to Halliburton in fraud and no-bid contracts." And Kerry said he is bullish about his own prospects in November; he said the race is "very close" and "narrowing every day."

Kerry's best shot at narrowing the race will come in the presidential debates, which begin on Sept. 30 at the University of Miami. Letterman and Kerry joked about the negotiations that led to Monday's announcement of an agreement on debate scheduling and format. Kerry said the campaigns had argued over seating arrangements for the vice-presidential debate. "I wanted to have John Edwards stand," Kerry said. "Dick Cheney wanted to sit." Letterman asked about a possible compromise involving squatting. Kerry said that wasn't the deal. "Well, now what's gonna happen is, well, we compromised and now George Bush is gonna sit on Dick Cheney's lap."

Earlier in the day, Kerry had accused Bush of offering 23 separate rationales for the war on Iraq. He didn't include any of those when he read the night's Top 10 list, focusing instead on the safer comedic ground of domestic policy.

You can watch the video of Kerry's Top 10 performance here, or you can read it for yourself here:

Top 10 Bush Tax Proposals

10. No estate tax for families with at least two U.S. Presidents.

9. W-2 Form is now Dubya-2 Form.

8. Under the simplified tax code, your refund check goes directly to Halliburton.

7. The reduced earned income tax credit is so unfair, it just makes me want to tear out my lustrous, finely groomed hair.

6. Attorney General Ashcroft gets to write off the entire U.S. Constitution.

5. Texas Rangers can take a business loss for trading Sammy Sosa.

4. Eliminate all income taxes; just ask Teresa to cover the whole damn thing.

3. Cheney can claim Bush as a dependent.

2. Hundred-dollar penalty if you pronounce it "nuclear" instead of "nucular."

1. George W. Bush gets a deduction for mortgaging our entire future.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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