Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Kerry Flip-Flop Myth

The Washington Post does some analysis to show that Bush is actually the chief flip-flopper in this presidential campaign.

Regardless, I have issues that the Post has determined, somehow, that Kerry has changed his position on some things - and changed them in a fashion that is somehow due just to political opportunism as opposed to changing his position based on new information that's entered the marketplace. Let's go through the charges:

Iraq, however, has been the source of the most damaging charges of equivocation and wind-shifting against Kerry. The Massachusetts senator voted for the Iraq war in October 2002, but a year later voted against Bush's request for $87 billion for military and reconstruction spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, for the rest of the story.

Kerry didn't 'vote for the Iraq war' - he voted to give Bush the authority to wage war on Iraq if the President deemed it necessary, as a last resort. Kerry voted to empower the President to wage an aggressive diplomatic battle, and gave the President all the leverage he needed to win that battle. Why is 'voting for the Iraq war' not the same as 'voting to support the President'? Let's look at a simple example for the simple-minded Rethugs:

Let's say you're my son and in reading the ultra-right-wing press accounts of Kerry's record you become enraged and wish to get violent. You're thinking of jumping out a window, you're thinking of going to a different website, and you're actually contemplating smashing your computer monitor on the floor. But you know you wouldn't be able to smash your monitor on the floor without making mom and myself very upset. So, even though you haven't quite made up your mind if monitor smashing is in your immediate future, you figure you should get permission from us just in case that's what you decide to do. You don't want to so overtly disrespect your parents. So, you ask for our permission: Dad, not saying that I'm going to do it, but if I do decide that I have no other way to assuage my anger, I might want to smash my computer monitor on the floor, but I know I need to get your permission to do such a thing. So, may I? I answer: Yes, you may - assuming you've determined that there is no other course of action that you could possibly take to assuage your anger, like drinking a beer, smoking a joint, etc. - then yes, you have permission to smash your computer monitor on the floor. Your mom grants you permission, as well. Then, you read the newspapers the next day and are so angered at the mind-numbingly brainless right-wing writing that you smash your computer monitor on the floor.

When I gave you permission to smash your computer monitor on the floor, did I ask you to smash it on the floor? No. Did I ask you to smash it on the wall? No. Did I ask you to smash it at all? No. Did I 'vote for you to smash your computer'? No. Did I want you to smash your computer monitor? No. Did mom want you to smash your computer monitor? Who knows? Did I 'give you permission to smash your computer'? Yes. Did I hope that you would have exhausted all other avenues to assuage your anger before you decided to smash your monitor? Yes. Did you do it? No.

Now, let's attack the $87 Billion Iraq War bill. Did Kerry vote against it? Yes. Did he vote for it? Yes. How it that possible? Well, there were two versions of the bill. The first didn't pass - the one Kerry voted for. The second did pass - the one Kerry voted against. So, is it misleading to say that Kerry voted against the Iraq War bill without explaining that he voted for the other version? In my opinion, yes, but voters have to sort out whether or not they want to be told the whole truth by a campaign, or selective bits of information.

Back to the computer monitor example to explain away the $87 Billion Iraq War bill myth. Since you've smashed your monitor on the floor, you asked me to buy you a new one. I said, 'OK', reluctantly, but I wasn't willing to buy you one of those new flat screen monitors. Your mom wanted you to have a monitor for your school year, which was to start in a couple of days. You knew you'd eventually get your flat screen, but I wanted to make sure my objection was heard, so that when the flat screen broke, I'd be able to point out my wisdom to you and mom so that you'd both listen to me next time a strategic decision had to be made. So, at our family kitchen table, during the weekly financial spending meeting, I voted to get you a regular monitor. I voted against you getting a flat screen. Mom overruled me and got you a flat screen. I wasn't happy, but I had to accept it.

Was there ever a chance that you'd not get your monitor? No, of course not. Mom and I would never had let you attempt to get through the school year without a monitor, regardless of how reckless you'd been in smashing it in the first place. So, why are all these other parents in the neighborhood running around telling everyone that I didn't vote to buy you a monitor for the school year? Well, it's true, and it's false. They feel that by misleading people about my character then I won't get to be soccer coach this year. It's dishonest, but some people are just dishonest. Was my position in giving you permission to smash your monitor contradictory to my position to not buy you a flat screen monitor? Of course not.

So there you have it. Dishonesty and simpletons reign supreme on the Right, and in America on the whole. Americans, in general, are stupid. There's really no other way to put it. We're easily duped, and we're duped often, and all the time. We're sheep who listen to our politicians tells us lies and we eat them up and beg for more. It's unfortunate, but that's reality. How to fix it? Whoa - that's for another day, another post.

One thing that this article, and most others on the subject have failed to mention, was that Bush specifically threatened to veto the Democratic version of the $87 Billion bill - the one that Kerry voted for.
Kerry voted in favor of a Democratic version of the legislation, and Bush threatened to veto the legislation unless lawmakers removed a provision that would have required Iraq to pay back some reconstruction aid.

Now, if Bush threatened to veto a bill that would have supported the troops, is he not guilty of his own charges against Kerry - that he 'was not supporting the troops'? To conclude otherwise would be anti-logic, dishonest, Republican.

But wait, there's more supposed Kerry flip-flopping. Which means there is more myth to dispel. Let's see what the Post has to say first:

Kerry's statements have compounded the damage. In September 2003, he said at a Democratic debate, "We should not send more American troops" to Iraq. "That would be the worst thing." In April, he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "if it requires more troops . . . that's what you have to do." In August, he told ABC's "This Week" that if elected, "I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops."

Let's take each statement and transform it into third-grade language for all the simpletons out there:

Kerry: "We should not send more American troops. That would be the worst thing."
3rd Grade: American troops, in insufficient numbers, are the cause of the insurgency. Now that the insurgency is out of control, putting more American troops on the ground is hardly the answer - that would only give the insurgents more targets to shoot at. My first choice is to reduce the number of boots on the ground, not increase them.

Kerry: If it requires more troops...that's what you have to do.
3rd Grade: If my commanders on the ground say we need more troops, we'll have more troops. If I don't have a choice, I'll do it. If it's my troops very existence at stake, I'll put more troops on the ground. If Bush has let this thing get so far out of control that I have no choice but to put more troops on the ground to buy some time to figure out a way to get ourselves out of this horrific situation, then that's what I will do, of course.

Kerry: "I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops."
3rd Grade: See the We should not send more American troops answer, above. These statements are completely consistent.

Now, more from the Post:
This week, [Kerry] said that, as president, he would not have launched an invasion if he had known that there was not clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda, though last month he said, knowing these things, he still would have voted to give Bush congressional authority to wage the Iraq war.

Kerry: as president, he would not have launched an invasion if he had known that there was not clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda
3rd Grade: If I were President, and Iraq had no WMD, and no al-Qaeda ties - I would not have invaded Iraq, period.

Kerry: knowing these things, he still would have voted to give Bush congressional authority to wage the Iraq war
3rd Grade: I gave the President the legal authority to invade Iraq, if the President felt that's what he needed to do.

None of these statements represents a flip-flop in any way, shape, or form.

This last statement (knowing these things...) is very troublesome for another reason, however. If Iraq had no WMD, and no ties to al Qaeda, why on earth would the President want to invade? And therefore, why on earth would Kerry give permission to Bush to invade if Bush felt it was necessary, for whatever unknown reason? What could Bush possibly feel was a good enough reason to invade a sovereign nation? And how could Kerry approve of Bush using unilateral force on some country that was no threat to the U.S.? Again, not a flip-flop, just a bit too much war-mongering, abdication of Constitutional duties, etc.

UPDATE: Eschaton commenter tells us about an SFC article challenging the assertion that Kerry has flip-flopped.

UPDATE: Part of the reason why Dems are perpetually losing important elections is because they haven't been willing to dumb down the debate to where the American people are. The Republicans, on the other hand, will subvert democracy to get their candidate elected - so this is not a problem for them. Read this Kos post to find out how Rethugs have been winning the war of the 'two word' campaign slogans. Unfortunately, it appears as though the Dems will have to dumb down their rhetoric to address the ignorance of the American electorate if we ever want to win an important race again.

UPDATE: Kerry does a big interview with Ohio newspaper to straighten out this flip-flop smear nonsense.

And Knight-Ridder covers the supposed flip-flops of Kerry, setting the record straight. If we could have gotten this type of coverage months ago, it might have helped keep the public correctly informed. Oh well, another failure of journalism in the U.S. How many more wars before we fix big-business domination of the media?

UPDATE: The Herald prints a letter to the editor supporting the idea of Bush-as-flip-flopper-in-chief. Let's face it - it's not a tough case to make, and is a much more devastating picture of what could ever be said about Kerry's nuanced positions.

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