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John Kerry Responds to the Connecticut Lieberman/Lamont Iraq Debate

by Pamela Leavey

Yesterday, in his first major policy speech on Iraq since his loss in the primary election to Ned Lamont, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman called “for the number of United States troops embedded with Iraqi forces to be doubled or tripled, to speed up the training of the Iraqis and help hasten the withdrawal of the Americans.”

Lieberman also attacked Ned Lamont yesterday, portraying Lamont’s position on the “withdrawal of American troops as “giving up on Iraq.”” Things got testy between Lieberman and Lamont as the debate on Iraq heated up. Lieberman’s speech also came on the heels of the latest NIE report, which “concluded that as result of the war in Iraq, the overall terrorist threat to the United States has grown rather than diminished since the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Like other Democrats around the country, Mr. Lamont seized on the report, saying it showed that the policies of the Bush administration had failed, and he said that Mr. Lieberman had continued to support them. “Trying to make a military statement there is just making the situation worse,” Mr. Lamont said on Monday during a campaign stop in New Haven, adding that Mr. Lieberman was still calling for “more of the same.”

John Kerry got into the mix today and responded to the Iraq debate between Lieberman and Lamont with a statement showing his clear support for Ned Lamont, who Kerry endorsed right after the Connecticut primary:

“Iraq has been a national security disaster and a terrible set-back in the war on terror. As Robert Kennedy said of Vietnam, there is enough blame to go around. We must all accept our responsibility to change course. We don’t need misleading speeches. We don’t need slogans. We need leaders who will tell it straight and stand up to this administration and say it’s time to change course. Ned Lamont is providing that kind of leadership.

Senator Lieberman and I disagree deeply and profoundly on Iraq. No matter how much Senator Lieberman pretends otherwise, as we were debating a Senate resolution to change course on Iraq, our intelligence agencies were telling this Administration that America is less safe and more endangered by terrorists because of the failed stay-the-course policies in Iraq. There’s just no excuse for continuing the old line that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror when in fact we know Iraq is a recruiting poster for terrorists while the real war on terror in Afghanistan spirals downwards.

The maxim that we’ll stand down as Iraqis stand up is a myth. We need a deadline for the redeployment of American troops to force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq. Aimless talk of stay the course is making things worse. Every time the Administration says we’ll stay as long as it takes is an excuse for Iraqis to take as long as they want. We are stuck in a growing civil war that sets us back in the war on terror. It does a disservice to our troops to stick with a broken policy over and over again and expect different results. We need leadership with the courage to change course.”

3 Responses to “John Kerry Responds to the Connecticut Lieberman/Lamont Iraq Debate”

  1. This is an excellent statement by Sen. Kerry who makes my point exactly. Every time someone misinterprets Sen. Kerry’s position on the Iraq war or the war on terror he is quick to respond. This is what democrats need to do as a united party. They need to speak like this in one voice. Just as President Clinton did on Friday. Democrats need to repeat their message over and over like this just as the senator is doing expertly. But the senator doesn’t just repeat his message, he backs it up with his plan. This is what democrats need to, which they are already doing. But they need to do it more forcefully and with one voice.

    That is what republicans did with the Contract with America back in the 1994 midterm elections. They created a unified message, and they stuck to it during all their individual campaigns and kept on talking about their plans for their party. In the end they took control of Congress. It was a sound strategy and it worked. The democratic message this year is louder than it was in 1994. But it needs to be louder, the democrats could learn how to do that by just studying what the senator has been saying. He repeats his message and his plans over and over again. He goes to talk shows that are hostile territory and he makes his case. This is what democratic leaders should continue to do. High visibility is everything.

    Republicans will always either distort or demonize the democratic message. This should not stop democrats and it doesn’t. The democratic plan bears repeating and they will continue to do so. This statement by the senator is a prime example to democrats everywhere. Not only does he give a rebuttal to what Sen. Lieberman says but he also puts forth solutions to the mess in Iraq and what should be done with war on terror as well.

  2. Probus,

    Good points. I agree!

  3. Thanks, Das. I believe Sen. Kerry’s vigorous defense of his views and indeed his plan to win the Iraq war will make him stand apart from other potential democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential election. The democratic presidential contest will be decided based on who has the most intelligent and practical plan to bring peace to the region and reduce the number of terrorists in Iraq and win the Iraq war. If democrats want to win the White House they must pick the candidate with the most foreign policy experience, and in my view Senator Kerry has the most experience in that regard.