ON DON IMUS'S RADIO SHOW this morning, John Kerry suggested that he would not have gone to war with Iraq, knowing what we know now (no evident stocks of weapons of mass destruction): "Not under the current circumstances, not that I see. I voted on the basis of weapons of mass destruction," Kerry told Imus.
So Kerry is in the process of completing the repudiation of his previous, pro-war/anti-execution of the war, position. On August 9 of this year he said that, knowing what he knows now, he still would have voted to authorize the war. Even more directly, on May 3, 2003, Kerry had said that "it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him."
No longer. Kerry does not now "support[s] that fact." He is now the anti-war candidate, this time presumably for good. Leaving aside (important) questions of Kerry's character and credibility, the stage is now set for a straight-up debate: Kerry's view is that we would be safer to have left Saddam in power. Bush's view is that we (and the world) are safer having removed Saddam, and that American strategic goals in the war on terror have been advanced.
But there is one issue on which Kerry has stayed pretty constant: Vietnam. This morning, Imus asked Kerry about his post-Vietnam activities. Kerry said: "I served. I came home. I saw what I saw. And I told the truth. And if people still have a problem with that, I'm sorry." The one lodestar is Kerry's career, the one thing on which he doesn't flip-flop, is his denunciation of the war in Vietnam as part of a "mystical war against communism," and his condemnation of American soldiers' behavior in Vietnam. In any case, Kerry is right that people should make up their own minds whether they "have a problem" with his 1971 "Genghis Khan" testimony. To help them judge, we link to it here.
William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard.
Previous Campaign Memos:
Kerry and the "Direct Link," The Kerry campaign is distorting Dick Cheney's words. September 13, 2004
Kerry's North Korea Non-policy, John Kerry calls the New York Times with complaints, but no plan. September 13, 2004
If John Kerry Were President, . . . Saddam would still be in power. September 8, 2004
Kerry vs. Kerry, What does "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" mean? September 7, 2004
The Kerry Record, What John Kerry about foreign policy and defense in 1984 and 1985. September 3, 2004
It Was This Big . . ., Does John Kerry still believe that the terror threat is an "exaggeration"? September 1, 2004
John Edwards: Disrespecting Our Allies, America isn't acting alone. September 1, 2004
No Bargain, The "grand bargain" John Kerry and John Edwards are prepared to offer Iran deserves serious scrutiny. September 1, 2004