Bush Campaign Lies

Monday, May 31, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #60: John Kerry has a 'Record of Contradiction' on the War in Iraq 

This is the follow-up rebuttal to a Bush campaign smear which I started debunking in lie #58. This post pertains to the parts of the smear which call into question Kerry's support --- or lack thereof --- for the war in Iraq.

The Bush folks provide Kerry quotes which are more than 6 years old, which is to say, from 1997 and 1998, which state that Saddam Hussein should be removed. They only bring out these quotes because they want to convince you later that Kerry changed his position. But note that in neither case does Kerry make an absolute statement that the U.S. should invade Iraq militarily, and in fact the 1997 quote is from a Senate floor speech in which Kerry says:

While our actions should be thoughtfully and carefully determined and structured, while we should always seek to use peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve serious problems before resorting to force, and while we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, if in the final analysis we face what we truly believe to be a grave threat to the well-being of our Nation or the entire world and it cannot be removed peacefully, we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise.
Kerry, Bush, and pretty much everyone else agree on this part. Where they will disagree later lies in the parts I've marked in bold.

The Bushies next cite a speech Kerry made at Georgetown in January 2003, where he urged Bush not to rush to war. Hmm, sounds a great deal like his earlier statement, doesn't it?

The next Kerry statement the Bush camp cite does indeed reveal something new in Kerry's stance toward the war. Kerry calls for 'regime change in the United States.' But there's a perfectly good reason for Kerry to present a new view. If we read the full article, we learn:

Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that President Bush committed a "breach of trust" in the eyes of many United Nations members by going to war with Iraq, creating a diplomatic chasm that will not be bridged as long as Bush remains in office.
This statement was not a criticism of the war, or even of Bush's decision to go to war, but of Bush's decision to go to war when the UN was still deeply divided on the issue. This objection is strikingly consistent with the 1997 Kerry speech the Bush folks cite.

Of the four remaining Kerry quotes, three are repeats from an earlier lie. See the discussion of items (2), (3) and (4) under lie #12. You'll see that Kerry's statements here are still consistent with his 1997 speech.

The final quote is one which the Republicans tout as proof that 'Kerry Admitted He Viewed His War Vote Politically'. Maybe so. Here's the quote:

I thought about that as if I were president, because I knew I was running for president. And I knew I had to be accountable to a standard.
Notice that it's not clear whether Kerry really is discussing his vote authorizing use of force in Iraq, and notice further that he only says that he knew he had to be 'accountable to a standard'. Which standard? If Kerry really is discussing the war here, then most likely he means that he decided to support or oppose the resolution based on what action he would take if he were President. After all, he might actually be the President soon, and would have to live with the outcome of his vote. Is that bad somehow?

We could get a clearer picture about what Kerry meant when he said this by looking at the full context of the statement, but this proves to be difficult. The Bush folks say Kerry made this statement on January 26th, but they cite the February 23 airing of FOX News' 'Special Edition with Brit Hume'. This means that Kerry didn't actually make this statement on Hume's show, but rather that Hume or someone on the program referenced the Kerry statement. So FOX News pulled a Kerry quote out of some context (and FOX is a decidedly partisan news organization), and then the partisan Bush campaign pulled the quote out of that context and claimed it as proof that Kerry voted as he did for political reasons. Are you convinced yet?

Well, neither am I. But I have been unable to track down either a transcript for the 'Special Edition with Brit Hume' show which the Bush folks cite, or any mention of the original Kerry quote on January 26, which some news organization other than FOX supposedly recorded. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that FOX apparently does not maintain an archive of transcripts for its news programs (it's almost as if they don't want people to be able to check up on them). I was able to find a partial transcript from the February 23 show, but it doesn't contain the magical quote.

So the upshot is, the Bush folks conclusively prove that Kerry's view on war with Iraq has been consistent since at least 1997. He always favored the use of force in Iraq, with true multilateral support, once diplomacy had been exhausted. After Bush took the country to war in the face of significant division among our historical allies, Kerry sharply criticized Bush precisely because Bush's actions weren't consistent with Kerry's beliefs. Indeed, Kerry would have been inconsistent only if he had failed to criticize Bush in this manner.

10:36 PM