Christine Stuart photo
Former 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he came to East Hartford on Wednesday to advocate for his position on the war in Iraq because the war is fundamental not only in the mid-term elections, but to who we are as Americans.Hours before Kerry spoke at the event sponsored by anti-war Senate candidate Ned Lamont, President George W. Bush told the media he was not satisfied with the progress of the war in Iraq, but he insisted the United States is winning and should not think about withdrawing.
Kerry said the first thing that popped into his mind after hearing what Bush said was, “How the hell would he know.” The crowd of veterans at East Hartford Middle School chuckled at Kerry’s comment, which alluded to Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard which kept him from being deployed to Vietnam during the war there. It’s been alleged throughout Bush’s political career that his father’s political influence may have helped make his National Guard service easy.Paul Bucha, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former advisor to Kerry and now to Lamont, said Wednesday “you do not lose wars, you succeed or fail.” And if you don’t have an objective you can’t do either, Bucha said.Bucha echoed Kerry’s 1971 testimony to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday when he said, “How can you ask these men and women in the military to give their lives for a mistake?” Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who became a vocal member of the anti-war movement when he returned from his tour of duty, said the American people and the military deserve “leaders that tell the truth.” Comparing the war in Iraq to the one in Vietnam, Kerry said he’s still in favor of setting a deadline for pulling out U.S. soldiers because without a deadline there’s no urgency to get the job done. “Our soldiers have done their job and now it’s time for the Iraqis to do theirs,” he said. Referring to Bob Woodward’s book, “State of Denial,” Kerry said the president’s own advisors admit that there is “no military solution in Iraq.” “So what is our military doing there?” Kerry said. “No American should spare life or limb because the Iraqis refuse to compromise.“Just think, “If we were saying ‘President Kerry,’ what a different world we’d be in today,” Lamont mused Wednesday. But Lamont’s attempt to compare both Bush and former President Richard Nixon to Sen Joseph Lieberman, who launched an independent bid for re-election after he was defeated by Lamont in the Democratic primary, has been met with marginal results. Kerry hasn’t seen Lamont’s latest Nixon ad, but he was able to say Wednesday that “half the names on the Vietnam Wall were put there” years after Nixon’s strategy – in which he opposed setting a deadline for withdrawal – went “bankrupt.” Click here to see the ad. Surprisingly, Kerry said he would accept Lieberman back into the Democratic caucus should he be re-elected as an independent candidate. Before Lamont defeated Lieberman in the primary, Kerry’s words were much harsher. In an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 20, Kerry accused the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate of “adopting the rhetoric of Dick Cheney,” on the issue of Iraq.In a radio interview following his appearance in East Hartford on Wednesday, WTIC talk show host Colin McEnroe asked Kerry if he relished the opportunity to oppose Lieberman. McEnroe recalled that at one point Lieberman supported Bush’s Middle East policy over Kerry’s during the 2004 presidential race. Kerry said he doesn’t remember Lieberman’s comments and claimed he didn’t know what McEnroe was referring to.Click here to read more about the exchange. McEnroe doubted Kerry, who may run for president again in 2008, would forget such a political barb. But if he does, it may just prove what Lieberman said recently: “Once you are elected, all is forgiven.” A Lieberman staffer attended the event to pass out press releases that attacked Lamont for negative campaign ads about Lieberman’s voting record on Homeland Security. The press release claims Lamont is hypocritical for campaigning with Kerry, who missed the same votes on security that Lieberman did in 2003 while the two were vying for a chance to be president.The difference is, Lieberman, who missed more than 400 votes over the past 18 years, didn’t challenge Bush in 2004 and Kerry, who missed the most votes in 2003 and 2004, did.