WASHINGTON – Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry may be rousing prospective voters, but he has also triggered rebuke after calling for "regime change" in the United States.
"What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States," Kerry said Wednesday in a speech to New Hampshire Democrats at the Peterborough, N.H., Town Library.
The line is similar to one frequently chanted by anti-war protesters, but Kerry, who is leading the money race and the New Hampshire polls for the Democratic presidential nomination, said earlier that during the war he would lighten up on criticism of Bush policy.
According to The Boston Globe, however, Kerry told the crowd that Bush had committed a ''breach of trust'' among U.N. members that could not be healed as long as he is in office.
United Nations diplomats, whom he did not identify, believe that Bush wanted to ''end-run around the U.N.," Kerry told the crowd.
''I don't think they're going to trust this president, no matter what. I believe it deeply, that it will take a new president of the United States, declaring a new day for our relationship with the world, to clear the air and turn a new page on American history," Kerry said.
Kerry's lapse from a pledge to refrain from criticism may have been a crowd pleaser intended to fight off the narrowing gap that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is eager to close. Coming out of virtually nowhere, Dean, who is no stranger within the region, has gained national attention for his unrelenting anti-war, anti-administration rhetoric.
In the latest New Hampshire poll, American Research Group put Kerry at 23 percent and Dean at 22 percent. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, a war supporter, is in third place with 15 percent.
But whatever the motivation for Kerry's comments, House Speaker Dennis Hastert refused to sit back and take them. He issued remarks Thursday, calling Kerry's comments misplaced during this time of war.
"Once this war is over, there will be plenty of time for the next election. But the war is not yet over, and we still have much work to do to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime," Hastert said in a statement.
"Sen. Kerry's remark, equating regime change in Iraq with regime change in the United States, is not what we need at this time. What we need is for this nation to pull together, to support our troops and to support our commander-in-chief."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, also criticized Kerry in a curt statement.
"America before New Hampshire," DeLay said, calling the remarks "desperate."
Just a day prior to the war, Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, told the International Association of Firefighters that it was time to leave international diplomacy behind and get behind the troops.
''You know, we're beyond that now. We have to come together as a country to get this done and heal the wounds," he said. "There will be plenty of time here to be critical about how we arrived here."
According to the Globe, Kerry did get behind the troops, saying that the public's criticism of the war plan is unfounded. But he chided the president for not having enough foreign policy experience and blamed that for the rift with U.N. members.
''I believe we can have a golden age of American diplomacy, but it will take a new president who is prepared to lead, and who has, frankly, a little more experience than visiting the sum total of two countries'' before taking office, he said.
After one of the 100 audience members at the discussion asked him if he was reneging on his pledge to back off criticism during war, Kerry responded that he had, adding, ''It is possible that the word 'regime change' is too harsh. Perhaps it is.''