BOSTON – Republicans think they've found the ideal person to explain in detail the Democratic presidential candidate's evolving position on the war in Iraq — John Kerry (search) himself.
Using video clips of Kerry discussing Iraq on various talk shows, the Republican National Committee (search) has put together an 11-minute video that traces how Kerry struggled with the issue of Iraq through 2003 and early 2004 as he competed for — and finally won — the Democratic presidential nomination.
Republicans plan to publicly unveil the video Wednesday morning and send it by e-mail to about 8 million supporters. GOP officials also are pondering how to make the video, produced by Laura Crawford of the Texas firm Crawford Creative, available to the general public.
In the video clips, Kerry gradually shifts from harsh anti-Saddam Hussein rhetoric in 2001 and 2002 to more cautious comments about Iraq in late 2003 and then to anti-war comments by early 2004.
"We've all reached a judgment the United States has to protect its interests," Kerry says on one talk show in early 2002. Saddam "may even slide these weapons off to terrorist groups, it's the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat," he says on a September 2002 talk show.
The video reminds that Kerry voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force.
Through 2003 and early 2004, Kerry became more cautious and talked against the war, as problems grew in Iraq and his primary campaign against anti-war candidate Howard Dean became more intense.
The video notes that Kerry voted against $87 billion for the troops in October 2003.
And it plays, then replays, Kerry's comment on the campaign trail about voting for the $87 billion, before he voted against it.
Kerry has since explained he voted against the $87 billion for the troops because he supported a separate measure that would have rolled back tax cuts for the wealthy to help pay for the expense.
While that explanation may make perfect sense to colleagues in Congress, it may not to voters with little time or patience for the legislative process.
"There's no question that comments here or there, taken out of context and thrown together, are intended by Republicans to try to simplify or dumb down a crucial issue of war and peace into a simple yes-no question," said James Rubin, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign.
While the video clips are often brief and lack context, they do appear to show Kerry evolving from a harsh critic of Saddam to an anti-war candidate by early 2004 at the height of the campaign for the nomination.
In early January 2004 with the critical Iowa caucuses looming, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews demands to know if Kerry is an anti-war candidate.
Kerry hesitates, then says, "I am ... yes."
At that point, the theme song about the lovable TV porpoise "Flipper" chimes in.
"They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning. No one at sea, is smarter than he."
Rubin said Kerry always believed the way the United States went to war was the critical question — giving inspections in Iraq a chance and building alliances first. "John Kerry showed he understood the complexities about going to war the right way," said Rubin.