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Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
 

Does the GMA transcript lie? On paper, Kerry horrible on the war


In judging the effectiveness of a TV appearance, reading transcripts (especially snippets from transcripts) can be drastically misleading, not being able to see the body language, or hear the intonation.

Perhaps, just like Kennedy won that famous debate with the TV audience that Nixon aced with the radio crowd, viewers of the Kerry interview got a completely different impression from the one you get reading the transcript.

But, 36 hours or thereabouts before the first debate, the last thing Dems will have wanted to see was their candidate flubbing yet another question on that wretched illegal Iraq invasion. And, on paper, he did just that.

The transcript of the passage in the Good Morning America interview with Diane Sawyer on the page whose URL includes the word transcript is deeply flawed, if one can take as correct the transcript furnished by the Googling monkeys at The Note today.

The cheeky funsters scribing the piece give us civilians a pre-extract steer, suggesting that the passage:
make us wonder how much more debate prep there is to do.

Ouch!

And the offending words follow:
DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it?

JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today.

DS: So it was not worth it.

JK: We should not - it depends on the outcome ultimately - and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat - there were no weapons of mass destruction - there was no connection of Al Qaeda - to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people - plain and simple. Bottom line.

DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?

JK: No.

DS: But right now it wasn't [ … ? … ]--

JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we've done what he's - I mean look - we have to succeed. But was it worth - as you asked the question - $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That's the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things - there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

DS: But no way to get rid of him.

JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely.

DS: So you're saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing - you would prefer that . . .

JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane - don't twist here.


Now, those with a deal of patience who have been following the saga of the Grand Canyon presser (my piece yesterday links to several earlier pieces here on the subject) may have thought that Kerry had at last settled on a clear, defensible line on the war.

But, here, he demonstrates the usual unholy terror of the Yes or No answer, even when it's in his best interests to give it.


He's asked, was the war worth it? - and, later in the extract, he does (Glory be!) answer with a straight No (with the good reasons he has). But, first time round, Kerry instinctively swerves. And, when Sawyer re-asks the question, he necessarily comes off as shifty. When there was no need to dodge the question.

Second time around, he fumbles; and then says
it depends on the outcome ultimately
- he's admitting the possibility that Good Ol' George's war might turn out to be worthwhile, though he (Kerry) has just said it was wrong to have invaded - and then
that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully,

It's a bad war with Bush in charge - but, under new management, the whole thing could be turned round, and the US could come out ahead!

However much nonsense (and it's plenty) is talked about Kerry's flip-flops, that sort of handbrake turn between gloom and despondency (well-merited by the facts) and a sort of salesman's optimism is nothing if not awkward.

Straight afterwards, he goes back to painting the (all too valid) reasons why the invasion was wrong.

Then he seems to get more or less back on track - it was a bad war which I would not have waged - though the second use of successfully still grates.

He's going fine until we get to
The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him.

What? Getting rid of him is now accepted by Kerry as a policy objective? Slip of the tongue, surely...

But he continues
there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

DS: But no way to get rid of him.

JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely.


Which definitely makes him sound like a paid-up member of the PNAC Tendency. As if Kerry (like his honcho Richard Holbrooke - September 26) was buying in to Bush's priority for regime change in Iraq.

So Kerry is saying not only was the war wrong (for the reasons stipulated) but
  1. Kerry agrees now with Bush's pre-war goal of regime change in Iraq; and

  2. knows of (unspecified) ways in which regime change could have been secured without going to war.

No wonder Sawyer sounds confused!

On the other hand...

On the infamous $87 billion Iraq votes - which I have heard other Dems explain satisfactorily in ten seconds flat - he apparently told Sawyer:
It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries — and I didn't say something very clearly. But it reflects the truth of the position, which is — I fought to have the wealthiest people in America share the burden of paying for that war. It was a protest. Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted, and that's what I did.

According to the Notesters, an GOP oppo email snapped back
According to a Washington Post article the day after the event, Kerry's comments were at a 'noontime appearance.' Perhaps his watch was on Paris time, where it was evening.

The email rates his Sawyer quote his eighth different explanation of the votes on the $87 billion.


MORE

There seems to be very little either in Big Media or the blogosphere on Kerry's performance. Strange.


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