Debate Over Kerry's Iraq Stance Continues To Dominate Presidential Campaign
The Iraq issue, and particularly whether Sen. Kerry has changed his stance on the US-led war, continues to dominate the presidential campaign, as all major media outlets led last night and this morning with the story of the 1,000th American dying in Iraq. Even with President Bush discussing tort reform in Missouri and Sen. Kerry addressing unemployment and outsourcing in North Carolina, it was hard for either camp to avoid the politics of the subject.
The President yesterday seized on a Kerry statement (Iraq "was the wrong war in the wrong place and at the wrong time") to accuse the Massachusetts senator of "flip-flipping" a term which according to the Washington Times he uttered for the first time and of using the same rhetoric as former rival Howard Dean, whose furious anti-war stance propelled him to an early lead in the fight for the Democratic nomination. As part of its coverage, NBC Nightly News last night showed footage of Dean saying of the Iraq conflict, "I think this is the wrong war at the wrong time."
The New York Times says that Kerry's statement "came less than a month after Mr. Kerry had said he would have voted in the Senate to give Mr. Bush the authority to invade Iraq even if he knew then the United States would not uncover unconventional weapons or establish a close link between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda. 'I believe it's the right authority for a president to have,' Mr. Kerry told reporters in Arizona on Aug. 9."
In another article, the New York Times reports that in a debate in May 2003 among Democratic hopefuls, "Kerry was asked by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News whether the decision to invade Iraq was the right one. 'George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity,' Mr. Kerry said. 'But I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.'" Dean, in contrast, "called it 'the wrong war at the wrong time, because we have set a new policy of preventive war in this country,' words that Mr. Kerry seemed to echo on Monday."
Bush aides appeared to relish Kerry's apparent reversal CNN said "they have been down right giddy, really, over the past day" and according to the Washington Post their "charges that Kerry borrowed Dean's antiwar line soon had the Democrats on the defensive. By late morning, Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer issued a statement saying: 'George Bush has made wrong choices in Iraq that have taken us in the wrong direction here at home. Those wrong choices have landed the country in a quagmire, costing us $200 billion and counting.'" The New York Times adds Bush's aides "spent the day shooting Blackberry messages to one another and reporters with quotations from Mr. Kerry that seemed to contradict his statement on the 'wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.'"
During his appearance in Missouri, meanwhile, the President said, "No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power." Kerry, in North Carolina, said the issue is not his vote to authorize the war, but how the Administration has conducted the war and its aftermath. Kerry said the issue "is not that I would have done just one thing differently in Iraq. I would have done everything differently in Iraq."