Friday, October 08, 2004

The NYTimes > On the Campaign Trail: Arms Report Spurs Bitter Bush-Kerry Exchange

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > On the Trail: Arms Report Spurs Bitter Bush-Kerry Exchange:
"Speaking to reporters in Englewood, Colo., Mr. Kerry said that 'this week has provided definitive evidence' for why Mr. Bush should not be re-elected. The president, Mr. Kerry said, was 'not being straight with Americans.'

Both the speed and the heat of the exchanges paved the way for the second presidential debate, to be held Friday night in St. Louis. Perhaps more important, they underscored how both candidates have staked their electoral fates to how voters judge them on Iraq, even as the debates nominally turn to questions of the economy and domestic policy."

Mr. Kerry had said: "Regime change in and of itself is not sufficient justification for going to war, particularly unilaterally, unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution. As bad as he is, Saddam Hussein, the dictator, is not the cause of war."

For Mr. Kerry, who has struggled throughout his two-year quest for the presidency to defend himself against charges that his voting record on the war was one of vacillation, the Duelfer report and Mr. Bremer's comments have provided the opportunity to attempt to refocus the debate on Mr. Bush's rationale for going to war, and his competence in executing the occupation.

On Thursday Mr. Kerry described Saddam Hussein as an enemy the Bush administration had "aggrandized and fictionalized," and he warned that if Mr. Bush does not recognize the severity of problems in Iraq, the violence in the Middle East will escalate. "If the president just does more of the same every day and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking," Mr. Kerry said, a reference to the civil wars that racked that country for many years.

Standing on a grassy lawn with the snow-topped Rockies in the distance, he said, "My fellow Americans, you don't make up or find reasons to go to war after the fact."

"Ambassador Bremer finally said what John Edwards and I have been saying for months," Mr. Kerry continued, referring to an acknowledgment this week by the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority about shortcomings of the American military operation in Iraq. "President Bush's decision to send in too few troops, without thinking about what would happen after the initial fighting was over, has left our troops more vulnerable, left the situation on the ground in chaos and made the mission in Iraq much more difficult to accomplish."

Mr. Kerry says that the pre-war intelligence was a reason to press for further inspections and pressure on Mr. Hussein, and that the vote to authorize war was part of that pressure. But he faults Mr. Bush for acting before that process had a chance to work.

Mr. Kerry also responded Thursday to a statement by Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, that the Pentagon, not the White House, was responsible for determining troop deployment. He noted that Ms. Rice works in the White House, "the place that used to have a sign that said 'The Buck Stops Here.' "

"For President Bush, it's always someone else's fault - denial, and blaming someone else," he declared. "It is wrong for this administration to blame our military leaders, particularly when our military leaders gave him the advice that he didn't follow. The truth is, the responsibility lies with the commander in chief."
con·cept: The NYTimes > On the Campaign Trail: Arms Report Spurs Bitter Bush-Kerry Exchange