MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Democratic Sen. John Kerry, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Sunday that if he is elected president, he will begin an unprecedented “flurry of activity” to protect national security that will include quick Cabinet appointments.

“I’m going to make America safer and I have some very strong and real steps to take quite immediately to make that happen,” Kerry said in the 12-minute interview aboard his campaign plane.

The Democratic challenger declined to describe his plans to find terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and get out of the war in Iraq, other than to say, “I will get other people to the table.” He said he was focused on winning the election Tuesday night and persuading undecided voters to support him.

“I’ve got to talk to them as candidate Kerry running for president, not as president-elect,” he said.

With the outcome of the race so uncertain two days out, Kerry kept switching between saying “if I win” and “when I win.” The Massachusetts senator said he was tired after a two-year campaign, but confident and impatient to get to work on solving the country’s problems.

“I think Americans are going to vote for change,” Kerry said.

But he also entertained the idea that he might lose to President Bush.

“The disappointment will not be personally if I lost, oh God, I lost,” Kerry said. “But it would be I didn’t get the chance to do those things for those folks that I wanted.”

Kerry said he is prepared to raise legal challenges to problems reported at the polls, possibly delaying a final result, but he expects the election will be decided Tuesday night.

If Kerry is elected, the presidency will go through its first wartime transition since Lyndon Johnson left office after Richard Nixon was elected in 1968.

Kerry said he is not concerned that the president is preparing an attack in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which could be carried out as Bush is a lame duck before Kerry takes office on Jan. 20. Kerry, who served in combat during the Vietnam war, said he would be available if the president wanted to ask his advice in that scenario.

Kerry said he’s gotten security briefings throughout the campaign whenever he requested them and he’s been pleased with the length and the quality of each.

Kerry said if he wins, he would begin putting his Cabinet together “as fast as I can.” Some names being mentioned for his national security team include former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“If the American people make me president Tuesday, they will see a flurry of activity and leadership with respect to our national security interests that they’ve never seen, but I’m going to wait until I’m there,” Kerry said.

It is possible that this election could be the second in a row where one candidate wins the popular vote and another gets a majority in the Electoral College, which chooses the president. Even though Democrat Al Gore lost to Bush under the system in 2000, Kerry said he still supports the Electoral College as a way to protect the interest of small states.

He also said he would keep the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives created by Bush, but would run it differently. He said Bush’s program “steps over a constitutional line” because he allowed religious activity as part of the programs.

“I think I’ll actually get further in terms of leveraging faith-based efforts than George Bush did, because I’m not going to cross that line, and we’ll get Congress to be supportive of it.”



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