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27.9.04

Flip-Flopping Or CYA?

I just don't buy Kerry supporters' explanation that he voted for the war resolution in order to strengthen Bush's hand in negotiating non-war measures to deal with Saddam. Certainly that's one thing a war resolution could be used for. And as the above-linked story points out, Bush claimed at the time that that's what he'd use it for. But it's also pretty clear -- and it was pretty clear at the time -- that Bush's claims were disingenuous. Kerry had to know that if you vote "yes," you get a war. No amount of speechifying about how Bush should use his authority would prevent him from using it as he pleased, and it was obvious how he pleased to use it.

There are three theories I can think of as to why Kerry missed this point. One is that he just doesn't know what's going on. This doesn't match up with his overall character. But if it's true, it doesn't reflect well on his suitability for office. Second is the idea that he was duped by Bush. Back in the primaries a lot of his supporters were pushing this line. The theory was that lots of voters had initially bought Bush's claims, then changed their minds later, so they'd like a candidate that went through the same thought process. As an electoral strategy this may be right, since Americans want a president who is like themselves -- witness the success of Bush's faux populism. But it doesn't seem like a recipe for a good commander-in-chief.

I prefer the CYA theory -- Kerry really did want war (either because he genuinely thought Saddam was a threat or because he figured it would be electorally advantageous). But he knew that anti-war people were disproportionately on the left, and there was a decent chance the war would go poorly. So he built in a political out for himself, by being pro-war in substance but anti-war in style so that come October he'd be able to plausibly emphasize whichever side would get him more votes (as we see now with all the liberal bloggers excitedly pointing out his claims to see war as a last resort back in his war resolution Senate speech).

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