Bush Hasn't Exactly Been As Consistent On Iraq As He Claims
As he prepares for his “foreign policy” debate with George W. Bush tomorrow night, John Kerry should read this piece from Mark Sandalow in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Because as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, Bush will tag Kerry several times tomorrow night for being a flip-flopper, and someone whose position on Iraq has changed with the wind while he, Mr. Moral Clarity, has been steady and resolute on Iraq from Day One.
And it is bullsh*t, because the Chronicle found that as circumstances change in Iraq, Bush has tried to subtly change his rationale for the war and changes the emphasis for why he went to war. In fact, the Chronicle also found that Kerry has been far more consistent than Bush of course gives him credit for.
President Bush portrays his position on Iraq as steady and unwavering as he represents Sen. John Kerry's stance as ambiguous and vacillating.
"Mixed signals are the wrong signals,'' Bush said last week during a campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. "I will continue to lead with clarity, and when I say something, I'll mean what I say.''
Yet, heading into the first presidential debate Thursday, which will focus on foreign affairs, there is much in the public record to suggest that Bush's words on Iraq have evolved -- or, in the parlance his campaign often uses to describe Kerry, flip-flopped.
An examination of more than 150 of Bush's speeches, radio addresses and responses to reporters' questions reveal a steady progression of language, mostly to reflect changing circumstances such as the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, the lack of ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network and the growing violence of Iraqi insurgents.
A war that was waged principally to overthrow a dictator who possessed "some of the most lethal weapons ever devised'' has evolved into a mission to rid Iraq of its "weapons-making capabilities'' and to offer democracy and freedom to its 25 million residents.
The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct threat to the United States.
In the fall of 2002, as Bush sought congressional support for the use of force, he described the vote as a sign of solidarity that would strengthen his ability to keep the peace. Today, his aides describe it unambiguously as a vote to go to war.
Whether such shifts constitute a reasonable evolution of language to reflect the progression of war, or an about-face to justify unmet expectations, is a subjective judgment tinged by partisan prejudice.
Yet a close look at the record makes it difficult to support Bush campaign chairman Ken Mehlman's description of the upcoming debate as a "square-off between resolve and optimism versus vacillation and defeatism.''
As I said earlier, the Chronicle put the Bush charge that Kerry is a flip-flopper on Iraq under the microscope last week and found it to be bogus.
Kerry told ABC this morning that his explanation of why he supported more funds for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but then voted against the final resolution was an “inarticulate moment” in the campaign while he also said that he will use tomorrow’s debate to set the record straight on the Bush and GOP distortions of his record.