Bush Ad Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq
September 27, 2004
Updated: September 28, 2004
Selective use of Kerry's own words makes him look inconsistent on Iraq. A closer look gives a different picture.
Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry's words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it.
Here we present this highly misleading ad, along with what Kerry actually said, in full context.
This ad is the most egregious example so far in the 2004 campaign of using edited quotes in a way that changes their meaning and misleads voters.
Bush-Cheney '04 Ad:
Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.
Kerry: It was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the President made the decision I supported him.
Kerry: I don't believe the President took us to war as he should have.
Kerry: The winning of the war was brilliant.
Kerry: It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Kerry: I have always said we may yet even find weapons of mass destruction.
Kerry: I actually did vote for the 87 billion dollars before I voted against it.
(Graphic: How can John Kerry protect us . . .when he doesn't even know where he stands?)
Kerry is shown saying it was "the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein." What's left out is that he prefaced that by saying Bush should have made greater use of diplomacy to accomplish that.
The quote is from May 3, 2003, at the first debate among Democratic presidential contenders, barely three weeks after the fall of Baghdad. The question was from ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
(Note: We have added the emphasis in these and the following quotes to draw attention to the context left out by the Bush ad.)
"As He Should Have"
The full "right decision" quote is actually quite consistent with the next Kerry quote, "I don't believe the President took us to war as he should have," which is from an interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball" program Jan. 6, 2004:
"Winning of the War Was Brilliant"
When Kerry said "the winning of the war was brilliant" he wasn't praising Bush for waging the war, he was praising the military for the way they accomplished the mission. He also repeated his criticism of Bush for failing to better plan for what came next. This was also on "Hardball," May 19:
"Wrong War, Wrong Place"
When Kerry called Iraq "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time" he was once again criticizing Bush for failing to get more international support before invading Iraq. He criticized Bush for what he called a "phony coalition" of allies:
Earlier that same day at another campaign appearance he repeated pretty much what he's said all along:
We May Find WMDs
Nine months of fruitless searching have gone by since Kerry said on Dec. 14, 2003 that weapons of mass destruction might yet be found in Iraq. But what's most misleading about the Bush ad's editing is that it takes that remark out of a long-winded -- but still consistent -- explanation of Kerry's overall position on Iraq:
The exchange was on Fox News Sunday, with host Chris Wallace:
The $87 Billion
The final quote is the one in which the Bush ad takes its best shot. Kerry not only said it, he did it. He voted for an alternative resolution that would have approved $87 billion in emergency funds for troops and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it was conditioned on repealing much of Bush's tax cuts, and it failed 57-42. On the key, up-or-down vote on the $87 billion itself Kerry was only one of 12 senators in opposition, along with the man who later become his running mate, Sen. John Edwards.
It's not only Bush who criticizes Kerry's inconsistency on that vote. Rival Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, a senator who also had voted to give Bush authority to use force in Iraq, said: "I don't know how John Kerry and John Edwards can say they supported the war but then opposed the funding for the troops who went to fight the war that the resolution that they supported authorized." Lieberman spoke at a candidate debate in Detroit Oct. 26, 2003.
Another Democratic rival who criticized Kerry for that vote was Rep. Dick Gephardt, who said beforehand that he would support the $87 billion "because it is the only responsible course of action. We must not send an ambiguous message to our troops, and we must not send an uncertain message to our friends and enemies in Iraq."
But aside from the $87 billion matter, this Bush ad is a textbook example of how to mislead voters through selective editing.
"Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Sponsored by ABC News," Federal News Service, 3 May 2003.
"Interview with John Kerry," MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews, 6 Jan 2004.
"Interview with John Kerry," MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews, 19 May 2004.
Lois Romano and Paul Farhi, "Kerry Attacks Bush on Handling of Iraq," The Washington Post 7 Sep 2004: A8.
Calvin Woodward, "Kerry Slams 'Wrong War in the Wrong Place,'" The Associated Press , 6 Sep 2004.
Fox News Sunday, "Interview with John Kerry," 14 December 2003.
Adam Nagourney and Diane Cardwell, "Democrats in Debate Clash Over Iraq War," New York Times, 27 Oct 2003: A1.
Joe Klein, "Profiles in Convenience," Time magazine, 19 Oct 2003.
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