Here is the text (I've corrected it from the original remarks-as-written text posted elsewhere; this transcript is what Senator Kerry actually said):
Last night in New York City, Karl Rove made some comments to the Conservative Party of New York that need to be discussed on this floor and that need to be apologized for.
None of us here will ever forget the hours after September 11th, the frantic calls to our families after we evacuated the capital, the evacuations themselves, the images on television -- and then the remarkable response of the American people as we came together as one to answer the attack on our homeland.
We drew strength when our firefighters ran up the stairs in New York City and risked their lives, so that others might live. When rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon, we took heart at their courage. When the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation's Capitol. When flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It brought out the best in all of us in America.
That spirit of our country should never be reduced to a cheap, divisive political applause line from anyone who speaks for the President of the United States. I am proud, as my colleagues on this side are, that after September 11th all of the people of this country rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans.
That's why it is really hard to believe that last night in New York the most senior advisor to the President of the United States is twisting, purposely twisting those days of unity to divide us for political gain. Rather than focusing attention on Osama Bin Laden and finding him or rather than focusing attention on smashing Al Queda and uniting our effort as we have been, he is instead challenging the patriotism of every American, who is every bit as committed to fighting terror as he is.
For Karl Rove to equate Democratic policy on terror to "indictments" or to "therapy," or to suggest that the Democratic response on 9/11 was weak, is disgraceful. Just days after 9/11, the Senate voted 98-0 and the House voted 420-1 to authorize President Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against terror. And after the bipartisan vote, President Bush said, and I quote: "I am gratified that the Congress has united so powerfully by taking this action. It sends a clear message - our people are together, and we will prevail."
That's not the message that was sent by Karl Rove in New York City last night.
Last night, he said, "No more needs to be said about their motives" -- the motives of liberals. Well, I think a lot more needs to be said about Karl Rove's motives, because they're not the people's motives, they're not the motives that were expressed in that spirit that brought us together, they're not the motives of a nation that found unity in that critical moment, Democrat and Republican alike, all of us as Americans.
If the President really believes his own words, if those words have meaning, he should at the very least expect a public apology from Karl Rove and frankly, he ought to fire him.
If the President of the United States knows the meaning of those words, then he ought to listen to the plea of Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband when the Twin Towers came crashing down: she said, "If you're going to use 9/11, use it to make this nation safer than it was on 9/11."
Karl Rove doesn't owe me an apology, Mr. President, and he doesn't owe Democrats an apology, he owes the country an apology. He owes Kristen Breitweiser and a lot of people like her and those families an apology. He owes an apology to every one of those families who paid the ultimate price on September 11th and who expect their government to be doing all possible to keep the unity of our country and to fight an effective war on terror.
The fact is that millions of Americans across our country have serious questions about that, and they have a right to have a legitimate debate in our nation without being called names or somehow being divided in a way that does a disservice to the effort to be safer and to bring our people together.
The fact is that mothers and fathers of servicepeople spend sleepless nights now worrying about sons and daughters in humvees in Iraq that still aren't adequately armored. They're asking Washington for honesty, for results and for leadership, not for political division.
Before Karl Rove delivers another political assault, he ought to stop and think about those families and the unity of 9/11. The 9-11 Commission has given us a path to follow to try to make our nation safer. He ought to be working overtime to implement its provisions. We shouldn't be letting ninety-five percent of container ships come into our country without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection.
So Mr. President, until the work is done of truly responding in the way that Kristen Breitweiser said we should, making America safer, using 9/11 for that purpose only, we shouldn't see people trying to question the patriotism of Americans who are working in good faith to accomplish those goals. Before wrapping themselves in the memory of 9-11, and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they ought to remember what America is really about -- that leadership is not insult or intimidation, it's the strength of making America safe -- and they ought to remember what their responsibility is to every single American -- and they ought to just focus on the work of doing that. That's what Americans expect of us and that's what's going to make this country safer in the long run. I yield the floor.
And I remember talking to the Senator from South Dakota about how he felt when his son was in harm's way. And so if ever there was a clear statement about the insult of Karl Rove's comments, it is the question asked by the Senator. I don't know if Karl Rove understands that, his comment certainly doesn't indicate it. But I'll tell you this -- it raises the question of whether or not he is, as many have suggested, prepared to say anything for political purposes. And I think he owes your son, I think he owes every Democrat --
Look, I've been to Iraq, I met countless soldiers who came up to me and said, "I voted for you" or people who said "I support you" or people who were just Democrats. And this comment by Karl Rove insults every single one of them, who responded to the call of our country, as did every senator on this side of the aisle in voting to go into Afghanistan and in supporting the troops across the board. And I think that if we're going to get things done and find the common ground here, this is not the way for the most senior advisor to the president to be talking about our country.
I remember the storm created over the last week over the comments of a senator. Well, here's a senior advisor to the President of the United States who has insulted every Democrat in this country -- every patriot in this country -- who is trying to do their best to protect our troops and provide good policy for this nation.
And to suggest that there was a weak response when we voted 98 to nothing is an insult to that vote, and to the unity of the moment, and to the words of his own President. And I think he owes an apology to your son and to all of those soldiers.