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John Kerry tries to rewrite history

In an interview he said this: “You know, Senator Chuck Hagel, when he was senator, Senator Chuck Hagel, now secretary of Defense, and when I was a senator, we opposed the president’s decision to go into Iraq, but we know full well how that evidence was used to persuade all of us that authority ought to be given.”

He seems to want us to believe that he and Hagel are cautious types who wouldn’t rush into a foolish war the way the George W. Bush did, and so their push for war now should be taken seriously. But he is flat out wrong. As Marcy Wheeler points out, he and Hagel both voted in favor of the Iraq war. They only turned against it when things went sour.

These people are shameless.

Comments

  1. says

    These people are shameless.

    More precisely, they don’t know what shame is. They’re capable of projecting any emotion that’s useful – of course.

  2. machintelligence says

    He remembers being against it, he just misremembers when. Too bad the internet makes fact checking so easy. He probably assumed no one would look up the voting record. Lots of folks wish they hadn’t voted “aye”.
    I got suckered in at the time as well.

  3. Jeffrey Johnson says

    This is a very selective and biased interpretation of an extemporaneous remark spoken in an interview. This is the interpretation I saw made by Ryan Cooper at Political Animal. I think it’s wrong.

    Saying that he and Hagel opposed it is not the same thing as saying “we voted against it”. If you note the time sequencing of the remark, he says first that they opposed it, and he may be recalling conversations he had with Hagel on the matter when it first came up, before a vote was held. Then he notes how “evidence”, which we all know to be false, “was used to persuade all of us that authority ought to be given.”

    That last remark can only be interpreted as they voted for it, only because they were persuaded by the apparent evidence. To make this out to be a statement that he voted against the war is poor reading and a biased interpretation.

    It amounts to the same kind of disingenuous selectivity that smeared Kerry with the bogus “I voted for it before I was against it” clip during the 2004 election. Any honest interpretation of Senate history must take into account that issues often come up multiple times with different amendments, and that Senators may quite reasonably take one position early on while taking another later in the process.

    To me this is clearly no flat out lie by Kerry, and only looks that way if you squint your eyes selectively and allow emotional anger and prejudice to blind you to the full meaning of the statement “authority ought to be given”. In other words, you have to pretend that doesn’t clearly say he voted for it.

    Kerry could have added explicitly what is implicit here, that he regrets being fooled by the Bush administration.

    The incredible thing here is that people could be so gullible as to believe that Kerry could for one moment think he could get away with lying about his vote when it is so easily checked. It is a sign of how blinkered people’s views become once they allow themselves to become consumed with irrational hatreds, and fall into the habit of conspiratorial thinking.

    Kerry is the man who went before the Senate in the 70s and testified about the violent atrocities committed by US troops in Vietnam, and the overall uselessness of the destruction perpetrated by the US in that country. That took a lot of honesty, courage, and commitment to the truth. Many conservatives regard that failure to strictly adhere to cowardly blind loyalty and secrecy about the truth of war as an act of treason, and while many saw it as a mark against him in the presidential election of 2004, I saw it as a very positive recommendation for him. I don’t think he has changed so much that he would now try to shamelessly lie about how he voted.

  4. Nick Gotts says

    You illustrate perfectly how it is that Kerry thinks he can get away with lying – he can quibble about exactly what he said when, obscuring the crucial point that he voted for the war when millions of us could see perfectly well it was based on lies, and know he’ll have plenty of apologists for his dishonesty, like you.

  5. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I’m sorry, I don’t see any lie here. In what way can a person with a brain who understands English interpret the remark that he was persuaded “authorization ought to be given” as a statement that he voted against authorization?

    If you go back and read the op-ed Kerry wrote in Sept. 2002 you can see he argues that war must be the last resort, only after inspections and all other diplomatic avenues had been exhausted. At that time, this was opposition to the Bush administration’s push to invade immediately, which they started hyping in mid-2002. This authorization was part of a process of slowing Bush down, while addressing the perceived dangers and uncertainties of Iraqi WMDs.

    When the authorization was given, it was conditional upon first allowing Hussein to open up the country to full unhindered UN inspections. People who did not want an invasion voted to authorize because they thought it would persuade Hussein to fully comply with the UN agreement he signed in 1991 which allowed him to stay in power. They thought it would avoid war while enabling the world to ensure Iraq was not stockpiling dangerous anthrax or smallpox.

    It was the Bush administration alone, in 2003, who decided they had no more patience with UN inspections and chose to invade.

    Given a proper understanding of the history Kerry’s remark is true and reasonable.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    The lie is in the intent to deceive. Kerry says:

    we opposed the president’s decision to go into Iraq

    Now the only unforced interpretation of that is that they opposed the decision when it mattered, i.e., immediately before it was put into operation – that they voted against the war at the crucial time – and at the point when it was actually put into operation. They didn’t, but he clearly wants to give the impression that they did. If he was an honest man, he would make clear in what he says that he voted for the war, and supported it at the time of the invasion. Of course, being a clever politician, he phrases things so that people like you can torture an interpretation out of what he says that they can interpret as honest.

  7. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I would agree with you completely if he had said “we opposed the President’s decision to go into Iraq.” Full stop.

    But given the entire context, it appears to me that your interpretation is the forced one. After he says “all of us” were persuaded that “authority ought to be given” I have no choice but to conclude he voted for authorization, and that these remarks are situated in a context where a proper knowledge of the history, or ability to check it, is taken for granted. I have already explained above why Kerry’s claim that “we opposed the decision to go into Iraq” makes sense in the context of the authorization debate. It also can make sense in the 2003 aftermath of the inspections debate when Bush unilaterally decided that the UN process was exhausted, at which time he alone decided to exercise his authorization, even though many thought the inspections process could be taken further.

    I can’t know exactly what Kerry meant, but the one conclusion I can certainly make is that he did not say or imply that he voted against authorization. There is no sensible way to interpret the entire remark that way.

    It is important to understand that the authorization was conditioned on the premise that invasion should be the last resort, and many felt that it was a threat that would convince Hussein to submit to unhampered inspections, thus obviating the need to invade. Voting for the authorization was not a final assent to invasion, but rather trusting the President to not invade prematurely if other avenues remained open. Whether or not Bush decided prematurely, or could have suceeded by pressing harder for inspections, was a subject of debate. For many the vote for the authorization was a mistake of trusting the President’s judgement rather than a mistake of deciding once and for all that invasion was necessary. One could argue that Bush and Cheney outsmarted the Congress. But one could also argue at the time of authorization that leaving the final decision for invasion up to another Congressional vote would weaken the threat that was supposed to convince Hussein to relent to inspections to the full satisfaction of the UN.

  8. Nick Gotts says

    All you’re doing is demonstrating your determination to interpret Kerry’s deliberately misleading account as honest. I don’t think you’re fooling anyone other than yourself.

    After he says “all of us” were persuaded that “authority ought to be given”

    But “all of us” were not persuaded – some members of Congress voted against – so that is not a possible interpretation unless Kerry is, at that point, lying quite deliberately and blatantly. He must mean the “evidence” was intended to persuade “all of us” to give authorization, so it says nothing about which way he voted.

    many felt that it was a threat that would convince Hussein to submit to unhampered inspections, thus obviating the need to invade.

    There was no need to invade. Hans Blix specifically asked for time to complete the ongoing inspections.

    Whether or not Bush decided prematurely, or could have suceeded by pressing harder for inspections

    It seems Kerry isn’t the only one trying to rewrite history. UN inspections were ongoing, blix specifically asked for time to complete them, and Bush deliberately sabotaged them.

    One could argue that Bush and Cheney outsmarted the Congress.

    It was blindingly obvious at the time to all but the very stupid that Bush was going to invade no matter what, given that he was certain of getting Congressional authorization. I don’t think Kerry is very stupid; he voted for authorization because that looked politically safest. He could always row back afterwards if things went badly, as indeed he did.

    But one could also argue at the time of authorization that leaving the final decision for invasion up to another Congressional vote would weaken the threat that was supposed to convince Hussein to relent to inspections to the full satisfaction of the UN.

    One could, if one was either stupid or dishonest, but not otherwise, since it was, as I’ve said, blindingly obvious that the invasion was going to go ahead anyway, once Congressional authorization was given. Whether the ongoing inspections were “to the full satisfaction of the UN” was for the UNSC to decide, not the American President or Congress.

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