An ongoing series of posts at TPM with this theme:
I was volunteering for Kerry when he made the comment about how he would have authorized the use of force in Iraq even knowing what we knew then. I still vividly remember the anguished conversations I had with fellow Kerry volunteers on the bus ride from RI to NH about the comments.
What I felt at the time, and what I still think today, is that Bush had Kerry boxed in on the issue. He had no good answer. From my perspective (and most others on that bus) he made a mistake in giving Bush the authority to use force. Simple as that. Any distinction between authorization to use force and voting to go to war was irrelevant, because we all knew what Bush was going to do once he got authorization. So Kerry could either admit he made a mistake on a life and death issue, in which case Bush would have pounced on him further for flip-flopping and bad judgement, or he could say he didn’t make a mistake, in which case it would dispirit his base and blur any distinction between his and Bush’s policy on Iraq
And this is why Kerry was a fatally flawed nominee for the Democratic Party. Getting rid of Bush was what animated Democrats, but the number one reason was because of Iraq. Similarly, Republicans have a visceral hatred of Obama, and their lead issue is health care. How can you nominate the guy who more or less invented ObamaCare?
It’s a fatal flaw. As with Kerry, Romney is either going to have to admit he made a terrible mistake or he’s going to lose his base in a rather radical way. Was that what happened to Kerry? Wasn’t Bush motivation enough?
The answer lies in the 2006 and 2008 elections, wave victories for Democrats. In 2006, opposing Bush on Iraq was what put the Democrats in Congress, and Obama’s opposition to it was the only difference of any consequence between Obama and Clinton. It cost Clinton a lot of early support especially, and the result was so close it was probably more than enough to be the difference.
Compare that with 2002 and 2004. In 2002, the Democrats were destroyed because they thought that they would just bend over on Iraq and then run on domestic issues. This was so incredibly stupid it’s hard to fathom now. In 2004, the mainstream of the party did all the Republicans work for them in opposing Howard Dean–because he was against the Iraq war they had enabled. On most policy issues, Dean was rather moderate and even had a favorable rating from the NRA.
Dean might not have won, but he wasn’t fatally flawed in the way Kerry was. Just like it’s doubtful any of the other GOP candidates–Pawlenty maybe, but how much do we really know about him?–would have had a chance, they weren’t fatally flawed on the number one issue motivating their own base. Bachman even voted no on the bill.
Oh, also they’re both rich and from Massachusetts.
Here’s what we wrote after Kerry’s speech on Iraq:
I think Kerry’s strategy of sitting back and let Bush screw up is going to start costing him in the coming weeks. I’ve seen encouraging polls from Florida and Michigan today, but I can’t help but freak out a little bit. It’s looking too good and there’s still