When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., cast his vote in favor of the Senate resolution authorizing military force against Iraq in October 2002, he made his bed. Now, the president's political guru, Karl Rove, is preparing to tuck Kerry snuggly inside those sheets.
In Sacramento Friday, Rove laid out the problem with Kerry's position -- or positions -- on Iraq: "If Sen. Kerry now wants to come out and say, 'I looked at the intelligence ... I said (Saddam Hussein) was a danger, I said he had weapons of mass destruction. But the president is a liar for saying the same thing.' That's going to be a hard sell to the American people."
I noted that Kerry told the San Francisco Chronicle in a February editorial board meeting that he would not have voted for the resolution had he known that much of the intelligence upon which Washington relied came from Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi.
Rove responded, "If (Kerry) had doubts, he should have voted no. If he had doubts, he shouldn't have written that wonderful op-ed on Sept. 6, 2002, in The New York Times in which he said it is imperative to go to the Congress and ask for a resolution of support, it is imperative that the president go to the United Nations and secure the backing of the U.N. Security Council. He said it was imperative then that we issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and that we require immediate and full compliance, and if Hussein doesn't, the United States must be prepared to go in and ... if need be, largely alone remove Saddam Hussein from power."
In fairness, the Kerry op-ed didn't quite suggest that the evidence against Hussein was so overwhelming that President Bush should rush to war with or without the United Nations. But Kerry did write that the Bush administration should "offer a clear ultimatum" to Iraq and asserted that America could go to war if the U.N. "Security Council fails to act."
Kerry's main criticism of Bush then was that the president failed to present a conclusive argument. He faulted Bush for suggesting that the need for regime change was sufficient excuse for war.
(Note to other critics: This undercuts your claim that Bush only used the regime-change argument after allied forces failed to find WMD.)
Kerry then argued that it was incumbent upon Bush to convince Congress and the United Nations that America "had no choice" but to go to war, "that this was the only way we could eliminate a threat we could not afford to tolerate."
Kerry also wrote, "There is also no question that Saddam Hussein continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, and his success can threaten both our interests in the region and our security at home."
"No question"? Those words, I presume, were written upon much consideration, staff vetting and exposure to Kerry's much-vaunted "nuance."
As it turns out, "no question" is the giant chink in U.S. intelligence -- or so news stories on "groupthink" in the CIA say. (So now that everyone agrees that "groupthink" misled intelligence operatives completely, I'm waiting for new stories that suggest the intelligence was not completely wrong. This just in: In 1999, Iraq may well have been shopping for uranium in Niger.)
Here is where Rove is right: Kerry boasts that he is the international community's darling and that he has been steeped in intelligence and foreign intrigue for decades. And, sacre bleu, he's practically French.
Yet the senator said in a primary election debate, "I don't regret my vote. I regret we had a president who misled the nation and broke every promise he made to the Congress of the United States."
"Broke every promise" apparently is longhand for "Bush lied."
Bush lied. Those two words have become such a mantra that it is hard to know how to begin addressing them. There's the awful knowledge, which makes me want to vomit, that U.S. intelligence was severely flawed -- and those flaws fueled a war. It was Hussein's flouting of the U.N. cease-fire agreement that made the war not only possible but justifiable. Still, war was more avoidable than America knew.
"I think every premonition I had about the downside of this war was proved prescient," Kerry also told the Chronicle, "and it comes out of the experience that I personally had when we lost the consent and legitimacy of our nation in the war that I fought in."
And yet Kerry voted for this war. How can a man so savvy and sophisticated -- so prescient, if he does say so himself -- have been misled by that simpleton Bush?
"Proved prescient," yet "misled."
Now that is nuance.