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Former Bush Strategist Dowd: “Kerry Was Right” on Iraq

by Pamela Leavey

Ouch! Matthew Dowd has had a wake up call since leaving the Bush Administration and it’s a real slap in the face to Dubya. Dowd, in 1999, became the poster child of “Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.” Now he’s looking back and he says “his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.” Talk about your understatements… Dowd told the N.Y. Times in a “wide-ranging” interview that “he hoped in part that by coming forward he would be able to get a message through to a presidential inner sanctum that he views as increasingly isolated.”

But, he said, he holds out no great hope.

Evidently he’s learned the hard way…

In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.

Dowd claims to be a “big believer that in part what we’re called to do,” he says, “to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have.” We could all sound the “too little – too late” rally cry here — but the truth is we can’t change the past.

Now, claiming exposing his feelings about Bush did not “come easily,” Dowd was able to get to the realization that so many have shared, “Kerry Was Right” on Iraq and he told the N.Y. Times that his “disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.”

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

And yes, he admits he had doubts even in ’04:

In television interviews in 2004, Mr. Dowd said that Mr. Kerry’s campaign was proposing “a weak defense,” and that the voters “trust this president more than they trust Senator Kerry on Iraq.”

But he was starting to have his own doubts by then, he said.

He said he thought Mr. Bush handled the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks well but “missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice.”

He was dumbfounded when Mr. Bush did not fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after revelations that American soldiers had tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

So, we’ll see what he does now with his Karmic wake up call that is causing him to call “for “gentleness” in politics.”

He said that while he tried to keep his own conduct respectful during political combat, he wanted to “do my part in fixing fissures that I may have been part of.”

His views against the war began to harden last spring when, in a personal exercise, he wrote a draft opinion article and found himself agreeing with Mr. Kerry’s call for withdrawal from Iraq. He acknowledged that the expected deployment of his son Daniel was an important factor.

He said the president’s announcement last fall that he was re-nominating the former United Nations ambassador John R. Bolton, whose confirmation Democrats had already refused, was further proof to him that Mr. Bush was not seeking consensus with Democrats.

He said he came to believe Mr. Bush’s views were hardening, with the reinforcement of his inner circle. But, he said, the person “who is ultimately responsible is the president.” And he gradually ventured out with criticism, going so far as declaring last month in a short essay in Texas Monthly magazine that Mr. Bush was losing “his gut-level bond with the American people,” and breaking more fully in this week’s interview.

“If the American public says they’re done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want,” Mr. Dowd said. “They’re saying, ‘Get out of Iraq.’ ”

Some how I doubt Dowd will pick up the phone and call the good Senator from Massachusetts with an apology and an affirmation that he was wrong in supporting Bush in ’04 and wrong in the way he portrayed Kerry. The revelation in the N.Y. Times is perhaps as far as he’ll take it, but on that, I could be wrong. Regardless it’s sweet vindication in my opinion for John Kerry, that one who labored so hard against his campaign can now look back and admit “Kerry Was Right.” Because the truth is, “Kerry Was Right” on Iraq and so many issues since ’04, as chronicled here on the Dem Daily over the past year and half.

So Dowd, feels a “calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.” Good for him. I hope he sticks with it, because we’ve seen enough ugliness under the Bush Administration to last a few generations. I know that’s something John Kerry would agree on for as he’s said so many times, quoting the great poet Langston Hughes, “It’s time to ‘Let America be America again.'” On that count too, Kerry is right.


  • Alex on Gun Toting Liberal says, “Trusted Bush Advisor Matthew Dowd Challenges The Administration.”
  • BradBlog notes Dowd’s son’s deployment to Iraq weighing in on his change of heart.
  • MongrelDogs weighs in: Why We’re In the Mess We’re In
  • On Lawyers, Guns and Money: Matthew Dowd: Finally Traveling at the Speed of Obvious
  • ABC’s Political Radar weighs in: Bush Guru Drafted ‘Kerry Was Right’ Op-Ed Article
  • Office of the Independent Blogger says, “The curse of George Walker.”
  • Memeorandum has all the buzz here… and I’ll note that so far the right wing faction of the political blogosphere has been silent on this one.
  • 9 Responses to “Former Bush Strategist Dowd: “Kerry Was Right” on Iraq”

    1. In all this I see Dowd refuses to comment when the subject of Karl Rove comes up. How can Mr. Deep Regret possibly apologize for his participation in Bush’s juggernaut of incompetence without nary a negative word about Turdblossom, the guy who is pulling all the strings behind the scenes? Even the editorial board of the Times speaks out plainly about it. Obviously Karl has something on Dowd.

    2. Folks, as I write this, the story has been out about 18 hours and has 31 pages of comments on HuffPost and a lot on Kos. Given the amazing sales for the book, I have no doubt that JK has way more support than the press thinks.

    3. Justice is slowly making its way into the political as well as the judicial system, and Kerry is beginning to be exonerated from all the lies the neocons spewed out. I do believe that the tide is turning, and that truth does have a way of percolating up. Thanks for a great Sunday morning post, Pamela. Our guy with his honesty and vision will prevail.

    4. You’ll have to forgive me if I find these crocodile tears from Matt Dowd more than a little hard to swallow. I have more up at AoF from a Frontline interview he gave after the election, but his defense of the Swift Boat Liars is indefensible, imo, even now given his sudden turn towards absolution.

    5. Todd

      You know me – Pollyanna Pamela! Your post is great – throw it up here on the Dem Daily!

    6. Pamela,

      I have a feeling that we are still only in the amateur stages of ugly. I’m a true believer in the existence of that thing that millions of folks on the other side call “The Culture War”. There’s plenty of folks over there that would like nothing better than to rip this country wide open. All in the name of saving it, of course. Which ever Democrat takes the Whitehouse in 08, the calls on talk radio ranting about impeachment will start before inaugration. And it will go downhill from there.

      I wouldn’t feel safe speculating about body count, but between 2008 and 2016 I would bet that there will be more acts of right wing terrorism on our soil than of the Islamic variety.

    7. I don’t understand a professional manipulator like Matthew Dowd could be taken in by someone who is so easy to see through. Saying his “personal affection for the president” stopped him from protesting is like drinking one’s own Kool-Aid.

      I only hope that, for the good of the country and to regain his sense of right and wrong, he starts talking about the slimey techniques Bush, Rove, & Co. have used to build and solidify their power. The only real way to show that he’s made a real break with W is to stop caring about what his Republican friends think of him and start caring about what’s best for this country.

    8. ‘Rightist Indignation’ Produces Latest Book Against Bush: ‘Invasion of the Party Snatchers’

      Last night I was talking with a friend about the difference between being angry and righteous indignation. Righteous indignation empowers people to go out a fight for things they believe in. It seems yet another Republican now has a case of righteous …

    9. […] ny use to him.” I won’t be at all surprised if Kerry is right on this one, as he has been so many times in the past. Leave a Reply You must b […]