Is Bush's biggest mistake too awful to admit?

Politics and policy.
Oct. 1 2004 3:58 AM

Out of the Question

Is Bush's biggest mistake too awful to admit?

(Continued from Page 1)

But when Lehrer transposed Kerry's famous question—"Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?"—Kerry balked. "No, and they don't have to," Kerry replied. "We have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence."

It doesn't add up. Kerry said tonight that Iraq was a diversion from the war on terror. He said the WMD intelligence was wrong. He added, "Two-thirds of [Iraq] was a no-fly zone when we started this war. We would have had sanctions. We would have had the U.N. inspectors. Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening." The logical upshot of these beliefs—and the evidence—is that Americans are dying in Iraq for a mistake.

Advertisement

Why won't Kerry say so? For the same reason Bush accuses him of saying so: Because we don't want to believe it. On this ultimate question, Kerry clings to Bush's wishful thinking. Tonight, Kerry vowed to prevail in Iraq "for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line. That is noble. That's the most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility."

"I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right," Kerry said, explaining his vote against the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. "That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war, I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote."

No, Senator. That isn't what you did with that vote. You haven't said no to the Iraq War as you did to the Vietnam War. And the reason is that this time, you're running for president.

But the greater shame belongs to the candidate who launched this war, refuses to admit his errors, and now holds the moral pride of his countrymen hostage, blackmailing them into shunning the truth. Tonight he scoffed, "If I were to ever say, 'This is the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place,' the troops would wonder, 'How can I follow this guy?' "

Exactly, Mr. President. If you were ever to give them the correct assessment, they would ask the correct question.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 1:46 PM The Real Secret of Serial Has Sarah Koenig made up her mind yet? 
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.