There are rare times in which I feel compelled to defend someone for taking actions I disagreed with. One such example is John Kerry’s vote for the Iraq War Resolution. Kerry is now under attack on this issue by a potential challenger for his Senate seat:
U.S. Sen. John Kerry said his motivation for voting to give President Bush the authority to go to war with Iraq in 2002 was based on meetings he had with senior intelligence officials and was meant to be used as a negotiating tool, not a blank battle check.
The junior Massachusetts senator responded to charges made by his new primary challenger, Gloucester attorney Edward O’Reilly, that Kerry’s vote was calculated with the 2004 presidential race in mind. O’Reilly said Kerry has an “inability to stand for anything but himself.”
“It has nothing to do with the decision for war and peace,” Kerry said in an interview with the Times. “I laid out very clearly what I was voting for and what I was not.”
I disagreed with this vote, but also feel it is inaccurate and unfair to evaluate Kerry’s position on the war based upon this vote. Kerry did make clear his positon on the war in his Senate floor statement and in articles in The New York Times and Foreign Affairs. Kerry voted yes based upon promises from George Bush that he would use this authority to seek a diplomatic settlement. While I feel Kerry made a mistake in trusting George Bush on this, this is hardly the same as supporting the war. After it became clear that Bush did not intend to keep his word, Kerry spoke out several times in oppostion to Bush’s policies prior to the onset of the war (in contrast to some Democrats who waited until it was politically popular to oppose the war). Kerry even called for regime change in the United States in protest at the onset of the war and later admitted his vote was a mistake.
Kerry may have made a mistake in trusting George Bush to keep his word, but it was also Kerry who protested going to war from the start, and who correctly predicted the problems we would face by going to war. Despite disagreeing with this vote, I respect John Kerry far more than I resepct a political opportunist who would distort Kerry’s position for political gain.
Update: Power Line repeats the same line, calling the positions of both Kerry and Hillary Clinton opportunistic. Their simplistic analysis overlooks the considerable difference in Kerry’s position for having made clear the conditions under which war was acceptable and speaking out against going to war before the war began. They also criticize what they see as Republican opportunism, writing, “Now that Republican Senators Lugar, Warner, Voinovich, and Domenici are bailing out on the war, we see the face of Republican opportunism.” Considering that the Democrats need more votes in the Senate, I’m just happy that an increasing number of Republicans are realizing the error in their previous position.