At first George Bush seemed to have won some debating ponts by misrepresenting Kerry's answer, claiming Kerry said he would have voted to go to war, when actually Kerry voted to authorize war as a last resort if we were proven to be endangered and diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation failed. With the short attention span of reporters, if not the public, it is no surprise that many prefered Bush's easier to say account rather than Kerry's actual answer.
Bush may have gained some points before his selectively chosen rally crowds, but it is not as clear that he has done so with the general public. What Bush fails to understand is that many voters have ambiguous and contradictory views of their own on the war, balancing the feelings that it was good to get rid of Saddam,and important to stand up to tyrants if they should threaten us with WMD, but questioning if Bush acted honestly or in the best way. While Bush has managed to fool many into believing Kerry is a flip flopper, in doing so he has reinforced the view that he is overly ideological and inflexible.
Note this view from Ron Brownstein of the LA Times:
Pointing Out Kerry's Reluctance on Iraq May Spotlight Bush's Rigidity
August 16, 2004
There's something kamikaze about the past week's skirmishing between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry over Iraq.
By challenging Kerry to say whether he too would have invaded Iraq, Bush has targeted what may be Kerry's greatest weakness with voters: a reputation for vacillation and hairsplitting.
But Bush simultaneously may be spotlighting what many voters like least about him: a reluctance to change course even amid changing circumstances and a belief in his own decisions so unwavering that it straddles the line between confidence and arrogance.
Fareed Zakaria writes in the August 23 issue of Newsweek about Why Kerry Is Right on Iraq, available on line at:
Zakaria doesn't entirely understand Kerry's position, but does understand the importance of nuance and looking at the underlying assumptions behind each positon as he writes:
Kerry's answer is that it was a worthwhile objective but was disastrously executed. For this "nuance" Kerry has been attacked from both the right and the left. But it happens to be the most defensible position on the subject.