Kerry Ignites Progressives at Take Back America Conference
Thanks to the speed of the blogosphere, first reactions to John Kerry’s speech at the Take Back America Conference are starting to come in. John Kerry has taken a lot of criticism for his vote for the Iraq War Resolution. This included mild criticism from those of us who supported him due to understanding his vote was not a vote in support of going to war, and much harsher criticism from those who misunderstood his position. By taking a leadership role in opposing the war, and by acknowledging his error on the IWR vote, Kerry is getting a second look from some progressives. TomPaine.com reports favorably on Kerry’s speech at the Take Back America conference:
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts ignited us at the Take Back America conference by admitting that his 2002 vote for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq was wrong. “It is essential to acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake,” Kerry said, adding, “I was wrong to vote for that war resolution.” He received sustained applause and some cheers.
Contrast that with the comments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has become famous for her assiduous courtship of the center — and at times, even the right — as well as her coy courtship with a 2008 presidential bid. While she criticized the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war and its “open-ended commitment,” she added that she believed it was wrong to “set a date certain” for withdrawal. She received a scattering of applause and a number of boos.
Kerry told the morning plenary session that he is going to sponsor an amendment to the defense spending bill demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. It is measure that will apparently put Kerry at odds with the more cautious Clinton. It will force her to make a choice between those who are urging caution in Iraq and Kerry’s now full-throated denunciation of the war and the way it is being executed.
“A war on Iraq founded on a lie can never be true to the American character,” Kerry said early in his speech, which was almost totally devoted to the war, in contrast to Clinton’s, which was mainly focused on domestic policy. Kerry drew parallels between the Iraq war and the Vietnam War that he was a soldier in, noting that in both wars, thousands of soldiers were killed or injured long after policymakers realized they had headed in the wrong direction but stubbornly refused to reverse themselves. “I was morally wrong then and it is morally wrong now,” he said.
In direct contrast to Clinton’s refusal to back a firm deadline for troop withdrawal, Kerry said, “We need a hard and fast deadline” and a policy that demands that Iraqis take responsibility for their own security. He said that every movement in Iraq toward the establishment of a permament consensus government has been prompted by deadlines set by the Bush administration and coalition partners.
Kerry also offered a set of principles he said progressives should stand for:
• Tell the truth to the American people.
• “Fire the incompetents” and hold government accountable.
• Make America secure by making America energy independent.
• “Value work, not wealth.”
• Export products, not jobs.
• Provide affordable health care for all Americans.
• Address global warming and the pollution of our air and water.