IT SEEMS THAT Monday's groundbreaking New York Times story on missing explosives in Iraq was certainly not groundbreaking and may not even be true. The allegations that nearly 400 tons of "high explosives" were missing from the al Qaqaa arms dump are based on charges leveled by Mohamed al Baradei, chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The claims are old and increasingly suspect. But that hasn't kept John Kerry's presidential campaign from using the story in a new television ad and in virtually every stump speech and media appearance over the past two days.
Now, however, the Kerry campaign admits that the information that is the basis of Senator Kerry's statements and his campaign advertisement may not even be true. Pressed on Tuesday afternoon about the accuracy of the allegations on Fox's Big Story with John Gibson, Richard Holbrooke, a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, said: "You don't know the truth and I don't know the truth." He later underscored this point: "I don't know the truth."
That minor issue hasn't kept the Kerry campaign from creating a television ad based on what may well be untruthful claims.
The ad, called "Obligation" shows John Kerry speaking solemnly about the responsibilities of a president.
The obligation of a Commander in Chief is to keep our country safe. In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives. The kind used for attacks in Iraq, and for terrorist bombings. His Iraq misjudgments put our soldiers at risk, and make our country less secure. And all he offers is more of the same. As President, I'll bring a fresh start to protect our troops and our nation. I'm John Kerry and I approved this message.
The claim is, well, explosive. John Kerry says the Bush administration's incompetence is killing U.S. soldiers. Reporting from a variety of news sources suggests that the explosives may have been gone before the U.S. troops arrived. In any case, Kerry's top advisers have conceded that their claims may prove false.
Yet, Kerry has leveled an extraordinarily harsh wartime charge against President Bush.
Shouldn't he at least make sure that such a charge is true?
It also now turns out that CBS 60 Minutes was planning to echo the New York Times story two days before Election Day. So what we have is an attempt by the New York Times, CBS, and a U.N. agency to work together to promote a very likely false story to damage President Bush's reelection prospects. Perhaps no one should be surprised that the liberal media and the United Nations are willing to go to quite extraordinary lengths to promote Kerry's prospects against Bush, but their behavior is not the issue. The issue is Kerry's willingness to advance allegations that his own campaign acknowledges may not be true.
William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard.
Previous Campaign Memos:
The Mother Of All Flip-Flops, Today John Kerry says that Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror. What did he think about Iraq in 2001? October 26, 2004
Kerry Will "Put More Pressure on Israel, Another difference between the president and his Democratic challenger. October 25, 2004
Kerry on Zarqawi: Wrong, The Democratic nominee is ignoring the evidence on Zarqawi's activities in Iraq. October 21, 2004
Dying for the United Nations, Why is John Kerry no Clinton-Lieberman Democrat? His obeisance to the U.N. October 20, 2004
John Kerry: Germany's Candidate, The German defense minister says that maybe there's a possibility that they might, someday, perhaps, depending on future "developments," send troops to Iraq. October 13, 2004
Not a Diversion, Was Iraq a diversion from the war on terror? Bush and McCain remind us that the answer is: No. October 6, 2004
The No-Nukes Party, The Mondale Democrats are alive and well in the U.S. Senate--does John Kerry still believe in their worldview? October 4, 2004
When Was He For It (Before He Was Against It)?, John Kerry gives a disingenuous defense of why he said he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. September 29, 2004
The Kerry-Kennedy Line, It's a good thing that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy lost the last time they took a stand on Saddam Hussein. September 28, 2004
Kerry's Phony Foreign Forces, Would President Kerry be able to get France and Germany to help share the burden in Iraq? Chirac says, "Non!" September 22, 2004
Nothing To Do With the Truth, John Kerry continues to insist that Saddam Hussein had "nothing to do with al Qaeda." And he continues to be wrong. September 22, 2004
Lugar's Other Comments, The media played up Richard Lugar's recent remarks about President Bush; will they do the same with his assessment of Senator Kerry? September 21, 2004
For Kerry, It's Always Vietnam, The subtext of John Kerry's Monday morning Iraq speech. September 20, 2004
Kerry's Flip-Flopping on Russia, The senator has two views on promoting democracy in Russia, too. September 16, 2004
Wrong Choices, A look at John Kerry's record. September 15, 2004
Another New Kerry Position on Iraq . . . and the same one on Vietnam. September 15, 2004
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