Kerry on Iraq War, Honest, Consistent, and Right
Republican Smear Video Distorts the Truth
Republican Smear Video Distorts the Truth

Anatomy of a Smear Video

Kerry affirms that the President has the authority to defend the nation but says that President Bush broke his word on how he would handle Iraq

The Republican video cuts Kerry's comments to just one sentence, "And the fact is in the resolution that we passed, we did not empower the President to do regime change." This sounds bizarre until you know what's going on here. In a nutshell, Kerry is saying that Congress didn't authorize President Bush to go to war solely for the purpose of regime change, if regime change was not needed to get the WMDs. If the U.S. could disarm Saddam by other means (such as inspections), then the resolution did not authorize regime change.That is in fact what the resolution says, and Kerry is saying exactly the same thing he said on the Senate floor on October 9, 2002, two days before the vote to authorize the use of force.

In this discussion, Kerry is saying that the President already had the power to defend the nation, and that Congress didn't give him the power to do regime change (unless it was necessary in order to get the WMDs), so Congress didn't give the President a blank check for war, they only empowered him to enforce the UN resolutions concerning the disarming of Saddam.

RUSSERT: By voting in October the way you did, contrary to what your colleague Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts voted, who said it was in effect giving the president too much authority, yielding our constitutional authority to the Senate to declare war. Robert Byrd, a Democrat, said it was giving the president a blank check. Do you regret giving the president authority way back in October of 2002?

KERRY: Tim, I have enormous respect for both Senator Kennedy, my friend and my colleague, who I'm proud is supporting me in this race, and Robert Byrd, who's one of the most eloquent, capable people in the Senate. But let me tell you this. I disagree with them on that. The president of the United States had the inherent authority of the presidency. And if he wanted to go, he would have gone and could have gone anyway merely to protect and defend the interests of the United States. And the fact is in the resolution that we passed we did not empower the president to do regime change, we empowered him only with respect to the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. Now, the president, as we saw with Bill Clinton, had the power — President Clinton went to Kosovo without any authority from Congress. President Clinton went to Haiti without any authority from Congress. The president has the inherent authority, he had the authority anyway, and I believed, as Joe Biden believed, as Hillary Clinton believed, as Tom Harkin believed, and many thoughtful people, that by voting the way we did, we were getting the United Nations and the inspections in place and we could — and the president made his word to us that they would build that coalition and do it properly. The president, in my judgment, broke his word to us and to the American people and we have a difficult situation on our hands.

[NBC Meet the Press, 8/31/2003]

On the subject of regime change, in his October 9, 2002 statement to the Senate, two days before the vote to authorize the use of force, Kerry noted that while regime change was desirable, it was not a rationale for going to war unless regime change was the only way to disarm Saddam Hussein: "Regime change has been an American policy under the Clinton administration, and it is the current policy. I support the policy. But 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."

In another part of his address, he notes:

"The revised White House text, which we will vote on, limits the grant of authority to the President to the use of force only with respect to Iraq. It does not empower him to use force throughout the Persian Gulf region. It authorizes the President to use Armed Forces to defend the 'national security' of the United States — a power most of us believe he already has under the Constitution as Commander in Chief. And it empowers him to enforce all 'relevant' Security Council resolutions related to Iraq. None of those resolutions or, for that matter, any of the other Security Council resolutions demanding Iraqi compliance with its international obligations, calls for a regime change." — John Kerry, Senate floor, October 9, 2002


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