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GOP accuses Kerry of switching stances on Iraq

Party says Democrats not staging 'positive' convention

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The Republican Party hammered away Wednesday at John Kerry's position on Iraq, part of its concerted effort to portray the nearby Democratic convention as an "extreme makeover" of the four-term senator.

At its "war room" blocks from the FleetCenter, the incumbent party released an 11-minute video piecing together comments made by the presidential challenger, mostly drawn from television interviews conducted between September 2001 and this month.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Kerry's position had "more to do with what was going on on the ground in Iowa than in Iraq," suggesting Kerry moved away from his vote authorizing military force only when that position became unpopular during the Democratic primaries.

But Democrats accused Republican operatives of using "creative editing" to distort Kerry's positions, and released more complete transcripts of the excerpts the GOP featured in its video.

"This video is nothing but a stale old attack from the Bush-Cheney campaign, who can't for the life of them find anything positive to say. It comes from the same president that told us Saddam Hussein was tied to al Qaeda, that we'd be welcomed as liberators in Iraq and that we wouldn't be bearing the costs and casualties alone. Need any more reminders of why this administration's lost its credibility?" Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said in a statement.

The video included comments Kerry made in late 2001 during an interview with CNN that the United States should "keep the pressure on terrorism globally" and "it is absolutely vital that we continue, for instance on Saddam Hussein." He told CBS that "Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and there is some evidence of [Iraq's] efforts to try to secure these kinds of weapons and even test them."

In October 2002, Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, were among the 77 senators who voted for the resolution authorizing war in Iraq.

In his campaign launch speech 11 months later in Charleston, South Carolina, Kerry characterized the vote as one meant "to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations," according to the video.

"Are you one of the antiwar candidates?" Kerry was asked on MSNBC in January of this year.

"I am, yeah," Kerry answered.

Gillespie said the video is being e-mailed to 8 million people on the GOP's mailing list, and that the party is seeking wider viewership.

Edwards also targeted

The Democratic platform passed unanimously by the convention Tuesday calls, as Kerry has, for an international coalition that would enable the United States to reduce its troops in Iraq.

It also says the Bush administration "badly exaggerated its case, particularly with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the connection between Saddam's government and al Qaeda."

"The president did not mislead," countered Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who attended his party's daily briefing in Boston.

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who served under the Bush administration in coordinating security efforts in Iraq, said, "We can't depend on the [United Nations] and other countries to defend our country."

Bush "did what had to be done" in Iraq, he said.

Gillespie said Edwards' appeal, especially in rural areas, may be exaggerated and the presumption that the North Carolina senator will win votes for the Democrats "because he talks with a drawl is condescending."

"This is a ticket that isn't going to fly in the red states," GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, referring to the states that supported Bush in 2000, including the 11 Southern states.

The GOP did not quibble with one of Kerry's self-proclaimed qualifications to be commander-in-chief -- his medal-winning combat record in Vietnam -- but said that was old news.

"You don't hear much about the intervening 35 years," Gillespie said.

"Nobody has come to the platform and said, 'This is what John Kerry has done in the Senate,'" Chambliss added.

The Republicans also took exception to the Democrats' claim that they would stage a "positive" convention.

McConnell called some of the convention rhetoric "vile" and claimed that only 20 percent of the podium time consisted of praise for Kerry, while 45 percent consisted of attacks on Bush.

"Even if they're delivered with a smile, they're still an attack," he said.


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