The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

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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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Kerry's Grand Canyon 'Gaffe' on the war resolution: the exact words, at last

Not breaking news, in any sense; but completeness demands reference to what is apparently the ipsissima verba of the exchange at Kerry's August 9 presser (courtesy of Bob Somerby last week):
QUESTION (8/9/04): The president last week challenged you to answer yes or no to the question of whether if, knowing what you know now, you would still have voted to go to war? Are you going to take that challenge up?

KERRY: I'm ready for any challenge, and I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have, but I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has. And my question to President Bush is, Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace? Why did he rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth? Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war? Why has he not brought other countries to the table in order to support American troops in the way that we deserve and relieve a pressure from the American people?

At the time, for reasons as yet unexplained, we did not have the complete text of the exchange - that we do now is, if I understand Somerby aright, due to the good offices of Tim Russert, on Meet the Press on September 12.

(Earlier pieces here on the Grand Canyon statement and its aftermath on August 10, August 14, August 26, September 9 September 10 and September 16.)

In this, fullest-to-date, version, how does the Kerry statement stand up?

From the left, the usual complaint is that the media conflates Kerry's voting for the authority for war with support for the war itself. And there is obviously such a clear distinction between the two propositions that only ignorance, stupidity or partisanship can explain a confusion between them.

But the basic objection to Kerry's formulation (which the expanded wording does not change) is that which I made in my August 10 piece:
straight off the bat, it sounds wacky as hell: Kerry would have voted to authorise the use of US force (H JRes 114) in a process mainly designed to force Saddam to reveal his WMD, even if he'd known Saddam had no WMD to reveal.

Even Somerby takes the point:
We think that's a slightly odd statement...Of course, if Kerry knew then what he knows now, it's unclear why those inspections would have been necessary.

However, Kerry wasn't a professor giving a lecture to his students - for whom teasing out ambiguities would represent a teachable moment: he was trying to win an election!

And, as I pointed out in my September 16 piece, Hillary supplied the most politically astute answer to Bush's question to Kerry in her August 29 appearance on Meet the Press:
There would never have been a vote to the Congress presented by the administration. There would have been no basis for it.

Slam dunk.

Bush made his challenge to Kerry on August 6 (the Friday before the Monday of the Grand Canyon presser). The Kerry campaign had a whole weekend to think of a reply...

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