Monday, July 12, 2004

STAHL'D OUT. I hope I don't see a worse interview all year than the one Lesley Stahl conducted on 60 Minutes last night with John Kerry and John Edwards. Mrs. Media Log was covering her eyes in embarrassment as Stahl alternated between oozing unctuously and taking the viewers for fools.

The worst moment came when Stahl tried to play gotcha with Kerry on his vote in favor of the war in Iraq. She started by running that clip of Kerry saying that before he voted against the $87 billion in reconstruction money he voted for it. That was obviously not one of Kerry's finer moments, and she was right to bring it up.

But then she tried to use that as a way of demonstrating that Kerry can't give a straight answer on whether he regrets his vote in the fall of 2002 authorizing the president to go to war. Her news peg was last week's Senate Intelligence Committee report. Among other things, she noted that the Democratic vice-chairman, Jay Rockefeller, now says he would have voted against the war if he knew then what he knows now. Why, Stahl demanded of Kerry, can't you just admit you made a mistake?

The transcript isn't available yet, but CBS News's synopsis matches my recollection:

Is Kerry for or against the war in Iraq? "I think the president made a mistake in the way he took us to war," says Kerry. "I am against the war - the way the president went to war was wrong."

The Senate Intelligence Committee has just issued a report saying that the basis for the war was erroneous, and that there weren't weapons of mass destruction. Given what he knows now about that report, would Kerry have made the same decision?

"What I voted for was an authority for the president to go to war as a last resort if Saddam Hussein did not disarm and we needed to go to war," says Kerry. "I think the way he went to war was a mistake."

"I know you want to make this black and white, but the difference is - if John Kerry were president of the United States, we would never be in this place," adds Edwards. "He would never have done what George Bush did. He would have done the hard work to build the alliances and the support system."

"Why build an alliance if they didn't have weapons of mass destruction," asks Stahl.

"We would have found out, that's the point," says Edwards.

Regardless, Kerry says he doesn't regret his vote: "I believe, based on the information we have, it was the correct vote."

Edwards has said that if he is elected "no young Americans will go to war needlessly."

"That's true," says Edwards. "He [President Bush] didn't do the things that should have been done before taking this country to war. This is not a -; I mean, we've now said it 10 times, this is not a complicated thing."

Gee whiz, why can't Kerry give a yes-or-no answer? It's no wonder that Edwards got irritated with Stahl's disingenuous questions - and Edwards is not someone who gets easily irritated, at least not in public.

Stahl would have known better if she had read the Boston Globe's Kerry bio. Here's what Kerry said before his vote giving Bush the power to wage war:

The vote that I will give to the president is for one reason and one reason only, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint conference with our allies. I expect him [Bush] to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days - to work with the United Nations Security Council ... and to "act with our allies at our side" if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. [p. 346]

In other words, Kerry's position on the war today is precisely the same as it was in the months leading up to it. He has been absolutely consistent. As Edwards said, it's not a matter of "black and white." To the extent that Kerry later turned against the war, it was because Bush didn't wait for the inspections to play out, didn't consult with our allies so much as dictate to them, and didn't act with the explicit authority of the Security Council.

Is this really so difficult? Apparently it is if you're Lesley Stahl.

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