NEW YORK – Former Gov. Mario Cuomo (search) advised Democratic presidential candidates who voted in favor of the war in Iraq to refrain from accusing President Bush (search) of lying about the circumstances that led to military action.
"If you start calling him a liar then what he has to do is go to that microphone and say, `It breaks my heart. I made a mistake, there's no question about it. I did not lie, and I want you to believe me, and I'm your president,"' Cuomo said Tuesday. "I wouldn't risk it."
Speaking at an event sponsored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee (search), a group of Democratic women involved in New York politics, Cuomo said the candidates should opt for a more conciliatory approach.
According to Cuomo, candidates who supported the war should tell the public: "We looked at the same intelligence (President Bush) did, and it fooled us the way it fooled (him). Shame on us. We should have looked harder. We're sorry. We'll get rid of the old intelligence team and put in a new one and do what we have to do."
Front-runner Sen. John Kerry (search), of Massachusetts, supported the war in Iraq but has since said Bush broke a pledge to go to war "legitimately, as a last resort." Howard Dean, currently in second place but trailing Kerry by a large margin, opposed the war.
In their bid for the White House, Cuomo said, the Democrats should reiterate to the American people the same question that Ronald Reagan asked in his campaign against incumbent Jimmy Carter: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
Cuomo said that in terms of the budget deficit, debts at the local level, job security, poverty levels and foreign policy, the answer would have to be "no."
"If Ronald Reagan were the judge he would have to reluctantly conclude, `Out, George, you blew it,"' Cuomo said.
Cuomo was governor of New York from 1983 to 1994.