(On Screen): Time Magazine gives us an excerpt from an interview with Kerry and a summary of a longer one. They do not make me feel any confidence in Senator Kerry's position on the war.
It is to the credit of Time's reporters that they tried to pin him down, and it is extremely revealing to watch him squirm and evade.
Kerry says, "I told you so."
I don't think war is nuanced at all. I think how you take a nation to war is the most fundamental decision a President makes, and there's nothing nuanced at all about keeping your promises. There is nothing nuanced about exhausting remedies that give you legitimacy and consent to go to war. And I refuse ever to accept the notion that anything I've suggested with respect to Iraq was nuanced. It was clear. It was precise. It was, in fact, prescient. It was ahead of the curve about what the difficulties were. And that is precisely what a President is supposed to be. I think I was right, 100% correct, about how you should have done Iraq.
I don't recall any such predictions or clear prescience. I only see 20-20 hindsight and kibitzing and carping and preening.
His phrasing is interesting: "how you take a nation to war", rather than "whether to take the nation to war". Style is more important than substance; motive more important than results; procedure more important than achievement.
As Kerry says, war definitely is not nuanced, but I do not find his denial of holding a nuanced position on the war convincing. In fact, what he says about the war goes beyond nuance to disingenuous equivocation.
I don't find his position either clear or precise. It seems that Time's interviewers didn't either:
TIME: What would you have done about Iraq had you been the President?
KERRY: If I had been the President, I might have gone to war but not the way the President did. It might have been only because we had exhausted the remedies of inspections, only because we had to—because it was the only way to enforce the disarmament.
TIME: But it turns out there was nothing to disarm.
KERRY: Well, if we had kept on inspecting properly and gone through the process appropriately, we might have avoided almost a $200 billion expenditure, the loss of lives and the scorn of the world and the breaking of so many relationships.
TIME: Would you say your position on Iraq is a) it was a mistaken war; b) it was a necessary war fought in a bad way; or c) fill in the blank?
KERRY: I think George Bush rushed to war without exhausting the remedies available to him, without exhausting the diplomacy necessary to put the U.S. in the strongest position possible, without pulling together the logistics and the plan to shore up Iraq immediately and effectively.
TIME: And you as Commander in Chief would not have made these mistakes but would have gone to war?
KERRY: I didn't say that.
TIME: I'm asking.
KERRY: I can't tell you.
TIME: Might the war have been avoided?
TIME: Through inspections?
KERRY: It's possible. It's not a certainty, but it's possible. I'm not going to tell you hypothetically when you've reached the point of exhaustion that you have to [use force] and your intelligence is good enough that it tells you you've reached that moment. But I can tell you this: I would have asked a lot of questions they didn't. I would have tried to do a lot of diplomacy they didn't.
TIME: You would have asked more questions about the quality of the intelligence?
KERRY: Yes. If I had known that [Iraqi exile leader Ahmed] Chalabi was somebody they were relying on, I would have had serious doubts. And the fact that we learn after the fact that that is one of their sources disturbs me enormously.
TIME: As a Senator, could you not have asked that question?
KERRY: We asked. They said, Well, we can't tell you who the sources are. They give you this gobbledygook. I went over to the Pentagon. I saw the photographs. They told us specifically what was happening in certain buildings. It wasn't.
TIME: You were misled?
KERRY: Certainly by somebody. The intelligence clearly was wrong, fundamentally flawed. Look, the British were able to do a two-month analysis of what happened to their intelligence. This Administration wants to put it off t