Charles Krauthammer

     So then Saddam was indeed part of the war on terror -- a ``for instance'' in fighting ``terrorism globally.'' Kerry temporarily returned to that position last week when he marked the one-thousandth American death in Iraq by saying they have ``given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, in the war on terror.''    

     How did Kerry get to this point of total meltdown? He started out his political career voting his conscience on national security issues. During the 1980s he was a consistent, dovish liberal Democrat: pro-nuclear freeze, anti-Star Wars, against the Reagan defense buildup, against the war in Nicaragua. And then he joined the overwhelming majority of his party in voting against the Gulf War.

     That turned out to be a mistake. And Kerry suffered for it. The very next year, he had to watch as Al Gore, who got the Gulf War right, was chosen for the 1992 Democratic ticket, a spot for which Kerry had been on the short list.

     Kerry learned his political lesson. Or thought he did. So when the Iraq War came around, he did not want to be caught on the wrong side of another success. He voted yes.

     But then things went wrong both for the war and for him. What did he do? With Howard Dean rocketing to the Democratic nomination, Kerry played to his deeply antiwar party by voting against the $87 billion to fund the occupation.

     Two months later, with Saddam caught and the war looking better, Kerry maneuvered again, slamming Dean with: ``Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president.''

     Kerry is now back to the ``wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' a line lifted from Dean himself.  So we are not better off with Saddam deposed after all.

These dizzying contradictions -- so glaring, so public, so frequent -- have gone beyond undermining anything Kerry can now say on Iraq. They have been transmuted into a character issue. When Kerry went off windsurfing during the Republican convention, Jay Leno noted that even Kerry's hobbies depend on wind direction. Kerry on the war has become an object not only of derision, but of irreconcilable suspicion. What kind of man, aspiring to the presidency, does not know his own mind about the most serious issue of our time?

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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