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February 15, 2004
Washington Post Hits The Nail On The Head

In the midst of running up big primary wins, John Kerry has managed to finesse his past policy contradictions and focus almost primarily on attacking George Bush. Today's Washington Post lead editorial pulls the string on Kerry and demands some explanations from the new front-runner:

The most important confusion surrounds Mr. Kerry's position on Iraq. In 1991 he voted against the first Persian Gulf War, saying more support was needed from Americans for a war that he believed would prove costly. In 1998, when President Clinton was considering military steps against Iraq, he strenuously argued for action, with or without allies. Four years later he voted for a resolution authorizing invasion but criticized Mr. Bush for not recruiting allies. Last fall he voted against funding for Iraqi reconstruction, but argued that the United States must support the establishment of a democratic government.

Mr. Kerry's attempts to weave a thread connecting and justifying all these positions are unconvincing. He would do better to offer a more honest accounting. His estimation of the cost of expelling Iraq from Kuwait in 1991 was simply wrong; and if President Bush was mistaken to think in 2003 that there was an urgent need to stop Saddam Hussein from stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Kerry made the same error in 1998.

Kerry has yet to explain these glaring contradictions in his record, and for good reason: his positions are not generated by an overall political philosophy but by sheer political expediency. In that way, Kerry and Clinton are cut from the same cloth. The Post argues that these myriad contradictions -- they mention several more in the article -- indicate nothing about how Kerry would lead if elected president. Well, almost nothing; I suspect it indicates that Kerry, like Clinton, would lead by market research and focus-group testing, meaning simply if it feels good, do it. In fact, that may well be Kerry's lifelong political philosophy after all.

Addendum: George Will, in his WaPo column today, helps Kerry focus on his own platform for America by reminding the Senator of his many (28, in fact) policy misstatements and political contradictions over the years. He asks Kerry for answers to questions such as:

When you denounce "lobbyists" do you include those for Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club? Is "liberal lobbyist" an oxymoron?

You say the rich do not pay enough taxes. In 1979 the top 1 percent of earners paid 19.75 percent of income taxes. Today they pay 36.3 percent. How much is enough?

In January 1991, after Iraq extinguished Kuwait's sovereignty, you opposed responding with force rather than economic sanctions. Have such sanctions ever undone such aggression?

You strongly praise former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, who strongly supports NAFTA and free trade. Have you changed your mind about him or about free trade (as you have changed your mind about the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 war resolution, the Patriot Act, etc.)?

The answers will be forthcoming, I am sure ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 15, 2004 9:01 AM

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