Friday, December 29, 2006

Statement of Frank Lowenstein, Kerry Foreign Policy Staffer With Kerry in Iraq, on the Photo Controversy

Okay, let's put the controversy over the Kerry photo in Iraq to bed once and for all. The right wing blogs have had a heyday over this photo which originated from Ben of Mesopotamia, for days and as I have pointed out here in two posts (here and here), it's nothing but the typical hype and lies from the right wing blogs.

My sources at Senator Kerry's office just sent over this statement from Frank Lowenstein, Senator Kerry’s foreign policy staffer who was with Kerry in Iraq. Lowenstein serves on Senator Kerry’s Senate staff, and is a longtime Kerry national security advisor.

Statement from Frank Lowenstein:

“It’s a weird feeling seeing this photo of Sen. Kerry debated and decoded like some artifact out of the DaVinci Codes. It’s strange to me because I was there when the photo was taken. I traveled with Sen. Kerry throughout his Middle East trip. I’m his foreign policy staffer. Myself and Major McKnight were sitting right there when this photo was snapped.

Snubbed? Alone? Hardly. Sen. Kerry isn’t eating alone. In fact that photo is at an off the record breakfast meeting Senator Kerry conducted early Sunday morning with the very real Marc Santora of the New York Times Baghdad bureau and his younger colleague from the newspaper. The man shown in the green shirt across from Sen. Kerry is Marc Santora. Right after that interview was completed, Senator Kerry videotaped a message expressing his and the country's support for the troops, to be shown on the armed services network in Iraq. Just the night before, Sen. Kerry was in that very same mess hall at a table where he ate dinner with about 10 U.S. soldiers.

Additionally, Senator Kerry spent nearly a day and half (out of two days in Iraq) outside of the Green Zone because he felt strongly that he wanted to hear from troops on the front lines. On Saturday morning, he greeted U.S. soldiers in Basra, and also met many British troops while he was there. On Saturday afternoon, he flew to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Warhorse, where he had a town hall meeting with over 100 soldiers. On Sunday morning, he was briefed by U.S. commanders at a training camp for Iraqi security forces. On Sunday evening, he traveled to another FOB where he had a long dinner in the camp mess hall with soldiers, including many from Massachusetts. These troops are nothing short of amazing, and my boss knows that with every fiber of his being. He’s a combat veteran. He’s been there.

Sen. Kerry knows that if you’re in public life, you’re going to have things you say and do taken out of context, sometimes photos even. It goes with the job. I just wanted to set the record straight about this photo not just because I was there and I know the truth, but because Sen. Kerry enjoyed his time and his conversations with the troops, and I hate to see anyone try to make some political hay out of all this or pretend this photo is something its not.”

More "Moonbattery" from the Right on the Kerry Photo

The controversy continues on the Kerry photo from Iraq, that the right wing bloggers have falsely interpretated as a statement that John Kerry's "welcome was less than warm" in Iraq.

Justin Rood of TPMmuckraker reports today that Ben Of Mesopotamia (aka Ben Runkle) has provided an explanation of the photo in question, putting to "rest the questions raised about the picture's authenticity."

Yesterday, I posted here that there could be any number of plausible explanations for why the table Kerry was seated at was not filled with the "troops" who the right wing bloggers claimed were shunning him due to the "botched" joke in late October. I also posted two photos of Kerry with the "troops" while in Iraq -- photos that clearly show the "troops" and Kerry in good spirits with smiles all around.

For the right wing bloggers to claim one photo as concrete evidence of their warped narrative on the photo is ludicrous to say the least. It's a desperate attempt to reach at a conclusion that can be not be drawn from a single photo. Steve Benen notes a similar conclusion on The Carpetbagger Report.

On Powerline, John Hinderaker claims that the "moonbats couldn't let it go" when it came to discussing the photo in question. Interestingly, I found that all the right wing blogs that went after the left wing blogs on the controversy, failed to note my plausible explanation to the photo, although I had linked to trackbacked to many of those blogs. To note my plausible explanation would of course show cause as to why the right wing claims were BUNK. John on Powerline goes on to continue to back up the right wing meme on the photo with this tidbit:

... when I tried to explain this controversy to my wife last night, she reacted with puzzlement: "What difference does it make if the picture was taken in January or December? It shows the troops avoiding Kerry either way."

What a load of B.S.! The photo shows John Kerry sitting a table, evidently engaged in conversation with someone down table a bit, and nothing more.

On Political Animal yesterday, one reader offered this quote from famed photographer Richard Avedon, in the discussion on the subject, that nails the controversy perfectly: "All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

We can interpret a photo a thousand different ways, but no one interpretation is the truth. The fact is, as I stated here yesterday, that "John Kerry is one huge threat to the wingnuts and they perpetuate their lies and their childish name-calling because of that fact. I mean let’s get real here, if he wasn’t a threat they would be tripping all over each other seeing who can out hype the next."

There are countless examples of baseless claims about John Kerry on the right wing blogs. Many have been debunked here. The perpetuation of this story by blogs like Powerline, Gateway Pundit, Riehl World View and Michelle Malkin, prove once again, that Kerry is threat to the right wing. That's the real story.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Ah, The Internet": Using the Web to Reach Voters

"Ah, the Internet." It's changed the face of politics over the past few years and it's ushered in a whole new way for people to get involved in politics local as well as national. And no one has done a better job of harnessing the internet, no candidate, no politician, than John Kerry.

Howard Dean set the model, John McCain is said to be "among the most tech-savvy could-be White House candidates today," former Senator John Edwards "has recruited Dean's Internet communications director," and Hillary Clinton "hired a pair of online writers for her successful Senate re-election campaign this year and has amassed an e-mailing list," but "the recognized Democratic leader when it comes to the Internet is Sen. John Kerry, his party's 2004 nominee."

He has a 3 million-plus e-mail list of supporters, donors and activists.

The Massachusetts senator sent e-mails to supporters more than 300 times between Election Day 2004 and Election Day 2006. He also has used his campaign apparatus to give away $14 million in donations to candidates last cycle. During a two-day period this year, he used his e-mail contacts to raise $900,000 for four Senate candidates.

"This represents the community of activists," said David Thorne, who organized Kerry's 2004 Web strategy and remains an adviser. "These are people who want to be active and supportive of progressive causes. There was no more important progressive cause than getting Bush out of the White House in '04."

Without a major polarizing figure among Republicans in 2008, Thorne doubts Democrats could recreate their Web success.

"I am dubious anyone can build the same kind of list in '08," Thorne said. "There won't be anyone that will create the passion and the intensity that George Bush did in '04."

I have said for a very longtime that Kerry's email list will be hard to match, should he run again, it will multiply and leave others including Hillary Clinton in the dust. While others are catching up to the power of the internet, Kerry has been in the game for 3 years. He's amassed a loyal following of internet activists as well as activists on the ground. Anyone who discounts that is wearing blinders. Sure, it's still anyone's game at this point, regardless of what the pundits predict and the early polls say, but John Kerry's got one big jump on the rest of the Democratic pack and truly the polls are meaningless at this point.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

John Kerry on the "Surge": When Resolve Turns Reckless

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily:

In the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post, John Kerry writes about the case for flip-flopping in a well thought out and presented case about the much discussed concept of the "surge." Kerry makes it clear that Bush's policies on Iraq have been a series of flops and yet Bush refuses to "flip" and change course. Since the release of the Iraq Study Group report, Bush has done nothing but play politics on the lowest possible level that any president can play at politics. It's what Bush does best, in fact, play politics, and John Kerry points out that "Refusing to change course for fear of the political fallout is not only dangerous -- it is immoral."

The constant flip-flopping from the Bush administration on Iraq has led to the slinging of "Barbed words," that "can make for great politics," or as John Kerry knows first hand political fodder. But, Kerry eloquently makes the case that he would "rather explain a change of position any day than look a parent in the eye and tell them that their son or daughter had to die so that a broken policy could live." What part of that don't the Bush administration or the war hanger-on'ers get? For truly, as Kerry says, "No one should be looking for vindication in what is happening in Iraq today."
The lesson here is not that some of us were right about Iraq or that some of us were wrong. The lesson is simply that we need to change course rapidly rather than perversely use mistakes already made and lives already given as an excuse to make more mistakes and lose even more lives.

When young Americans are being killed and maimed, when the Middle East is on the brink of three civil wars, even the most vaunted "steadfastness" morphs pretty quickly into stubbornness, and resolve becomes recklessness. Changing tactics in the face of changing conditions on the ground, developing new strategies because the old ones don't work, is a hell of a lot smarter than the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again with the same tragic results.

Again, John Kerry reminds us all that, as he has so many times over the past year or more (see here and here), that "Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial died after America's leaders knew that our strategy in that war was not working." He asks the question...
Was then-secretary of defense Robert McNamara steadfast as he continued to send American troops to die for a war he knew privately could not be won?

And he reminds us all that "History does not remember his resolve -- it remembers his refusal to confront reality." And, Kerry points out that "Clark Clifford, the man who succeeded McNamara in 1968, was handpicked by President Lyndon B. Johnson because he was a renowned hawk."
But the new defense secretary reviewed the Vietnam policy and concluded that "we cannot realistically expect to achieve anything more through our military force, and the time has come to begin to disengage." By the time he left office, he had refused to endorse a further military buildup, supported the halt in our bombing, and urged negotiation and gradual disengagement. Was Clifford a flip-flopper of historic proportions, or did he in fact demonstrate the courage of his convictions?

It is simple now, really, because in truth, "We cannot afford to waste time being told that admitting mistakes, not the mistakes themselves, will provide our enemies with an intolerable propaganda victory." And time is what the Bush administration keeps wasting over and over again, with their refusal to change course...
We've already lost years being told that we have no choice but to stay the course of a failed policy.

This isn't a time for stubbornness, nor is it a time for halfway solutions -- or warmed-over "new" solutions that our own experience tells us will only make the problem worse. The Iraq Study Group tells us that "the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." It joins the chorus of experts in and outside of Baghdad reminding us that there is no military solution to a political crisis. And yet, over the warnings of former secretary of state Colin Powell, Gen. John Abizaid and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington is considering a "troop buildup" option, sending more troops into harm's way to referee a civil war.

Now here is the kicker from Kerry on the "surge," the point no one else seems to have made about this plan with out a plan, "We have already tried a trimmed-down version of the McCain plan of indefinitely increasing troop levels," Kerry says.
We sent 15,000 more troops to Baghdad last summer, and today the escalating civil war is even worse. You could put 100,000 more troops in tomorrow and you're only going to add to the number of casualties until Iraqis sit down together at a bargaining table and compromise. The barrel of a gun can't answer the question of how you force Iraqi nationalism to trump sectarian loyalty.

And, so how to do achieve stability in Iraq? The answer is clear and has been clear for a very long time now. Kerry has been right on this and consistent on this while Bush continues to flip-flop and lead us astray with policies that won't work, like the "surge"...
The only hope for stability lies in pushing Iraqis to forge a sustainable political agreement on federalism, distributing oil revenues and neutralizing sectarian militias. And that will happen only if we set a deadline to redeploy our troops.

Last May, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad gave the new Iraqi government six months to make the necessary political compromises. But a deadline with no teeth is only lip service. How many times do we have to see that Iraqi politicians respond only to firm, specific deadlines -- a deadline to transfer authority, deadlines to hold two elections and a referendum, and a deadline to form a government -- before we understand that it's time to make it clear that we are leaving and that we will not sacrifice American lives for the sake of squabbling Iraqi politicians?

Then there's the issue of the stubbornness, the bull-headed refusal of Bush to listen to others, the refusal to sit at the table of diplomacy, a table that the Iraq Study Group recommended might help to make a difference...
Another case where steadfastness long ago gave way to stubbornness is our approach to Iraq's neighbors. Last week in Damascus, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and I met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. We were clear about U.S. expectations for change in his regime's policies, but we found potential for cooperation with Syria in averting a disaster in Iraq -- potential that should be put to the test. Washington can't remain on the sidelines, stubbornly clinging to a belief that talking to our enemies rewards hostile regimes.

We need to do this because, "Conversation is not capitulation."
Until recently, it was widely accepted that good foreign policy demands a willingness to seize opportunities and change policy as the facts change. That's neither flip-flopping nor rudderless diplomacy -- it's strength.

How else could we end up with the famous mantra that "only Nixon could go to China"? For decades, Richard Nixon built his reputation as a China hawk. In 1960, he took John Kennedy to task for being soft on China. He called isolating China a "moral position" that "flatly rejected cowardly expediency." Then, when China broke with the Soviet Union during his presidency, he saw an opportunity to weaken our enemies and make Americans safer. His 1972 visit to China was a major U.S. diplomatic victory in the Cold War.

Ronald Reagan was no shape-shifter, either, but after calling the Soviet Union the "evil empire," he met repeatedly with its leaders. When Reagan saw an opportunity for cooperation with Mikhail Gorbachev, he reached out and tested our enemies' intentions. History remembers that he backed tough words with tough decisions -- and, yes, that he changed course even as he remained true to his principles.

President Bush and all of us who grew up in the shadows of World War II remember Winston Churchill -- his grit, his daring, his resolve. I remember listening to his speeches on a vinyl album in the pre-iPod era. Two years ago I spoke about Iraq at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where Churchill had drawn a line between freedom and fear in his "iron curtain" speech. In preparation, I reread some of the many words from various addresses that made him famous. Something in one passage caught my eye. When Churchill urged, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in," he added: "except to convictions of honour and good sense."

This is a time for such convictions.

What will it take for the Bush administration to see that we must change course? How many more lives will we lose for his stubborn refusal to change course. How many more times will he flip-flop in plain view of the American public and how much longer will BushCo apologists continue to aid and abet him? We're on a reckless course with the flip-flopper in chief at the helm.

John Kerry has proven himself to be right time and time again, and contrary to the claim of some it is not Kerry who needs to prove himself on the issue of flip-flopping in the future, but Bush. Kerry's been clear over and over and over again. Bush, has not. We can no longer afford to "sacrifice American lives for the sake of squabbling Iraqi politicians," and likewise, we can no longer afford to "sacrifice American lives for the sake of squabbling" American politicians. Bush's resolve has "turned reckless" and it's time to put a stop to his fear of "political fallout," and begin to bring our troops home.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bush Says, “U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq”

In an interview with the WaPo, Bush "acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists."

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

Bush also told the WaPo that he has "ordered Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to develop a plan to increase the troop strength of the Army and Marine Corps, heeding warnings from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill that multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching the armed forces toward the breaking point."
"We need to reset our military," said Bush, whose administration had opposed increasing force levels as recently as this summer.

But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed. He confirmed that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted out of concern that it would not help.

Peter Baker, reporting for the WaPo on the interview noted that "A substantial military expansion will take years and would not immediately affect the war in Iraq." And Baker also pointed out that "Democrats have been calling for additional troops for years."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) proposed an increase of 40,000 troops during his 2004 campaign against Bush, only to be dismissed by the administration. As recently as June, the Bush administration opposed adding more troops because restructuring "is enabling our military to get more war-fighting capability from current end strength."

But Bush yesterday had changed his mind.

So, we see once again that Bush has flip-flopped all over the map on an issue and we see once again, that John Kerry was right. Too darn bad, Bush was so bullheaded back in '04 that he never heeded Kerry's proposal. It does appear that time and time again Kerry is light years ahead of Bush on so many issues, including the fact that we're losing in Iraq.

Contrary to the claim of my nemesis Mr. Crittenden, it does not appear that the WaPo forced Bush to admit that we're losing in Iraq. Whether or not Bush really believes it however still remains to be seen, the flip-flopper in chief, just can't seem to decide on anything and stick to it.

UPDATE: In the blogosphere, Think Progress and Matthew Yglesias note Kerry was right in '04...

Think Progress: FLASHBACK: Bush Said Kerry Proposal to Increase Size of Military Would Make The Country ‘Less Safe’.

Matthew Yglesias: "One point to note is that this is a longstanding Democratic Party idea, something backed by John Kerry."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kerry Urges Dialogue With Iran, Syria

On Wednesday, John Kerry left the U.S. for a nine-day trip to the Middle East. Kerry's trip includes a stop in Iraq, and a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While in Egypt on Thursday, Kerry said that the Bush administration should talk to Syria and Iran.
Kerry also told reporters in Cairo he believed U.S. policy in the Middle East was in trouble, partly because the United States had failed to listen to people in the region.

He cited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's advice in 2002 that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would lead to disaster. "Frankly, more people should have listened to him," he said after talks with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

"It's very important for countries to talk to each other, even when you disagree. We have serious differences with Syria right now, we have serious differencess with Iran, but you can't begin to resolve those differences if you're not willing to try to understand.. I think it's important to begin a discussion," said Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

The Bush administration has rejected calls to hold talks with Syria and Iran and on Wednesday, Democratic senator Bill Nelson of Florida caught the ire of the Bush administration when he met with Syrian President Assad in Damascus. Nelson said he saw an opening for dialogue with Syria.

President George W. Bush issued a statement on Wednesday "calling on Syria to "immediately free all political prisoners" and "cease its efforts to undermine Lebanese sovereignty"."
Washington accuses Syria of allowing weapons and fighters to cross the border into Iraq, which Syria denies.

Kerry's keen sense of the importance of diplomacy is seen here once again, as the Bush administration stomps their feet and makes threats, Kerry sits and talks with world leaders...

The White House claimed today that the Senate trips to Syria "hurt Mideast progress." What a load of B.S. that is. It's not just Democratic Senators visiting Syria for talks, Republican Senator Arlen Specter from PA, will also be paying a visit to Syria.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

John Kerry on CNN’s “American Morning”

John Kerry is on another media blitz today, discussing the release of the Iraq Study Group report on Iraq. Today the bi-partisan Study Group panel said, that the "conditions in Iraq are "grave and deteriorating," with the prospect that a "slide toward chaos" could topple the U.S.-backed government and trigger a regional war unless the United States changes course and seeks a broader diplomatic and political solution involving all of Iraq's neighbors."

In what amounts to the most extensive independent assessment of the nearly four-year-old conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, the Iraq Study Group bluntly warns that "current U.S. policy is not working." Citing rising violence and the Iraqi government's failure to advance national reconciliation, the panel paints a grim picture of a nation that Bush has repeatedly vowed to transform into a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

John Kerry discussed the panel's report earlier today on CNN's "American Morning." For our readers who have followed Kerry position on Iraq including his speeches and OP/ED's over the past couple of years and various debates on the Senate floor, it's clear that the Iraq Study Group report recommends much of what Kerry has been calling for, for some time now.

The video and transcript are available here.

Kerry Discusses Iraq Study Group Report on Hardball (VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT)

Last evening John Kerry was on Hardball with Mike Barnicle, discussing Iraq and the release of the Iraq Study Group report.
The congressionally chartered panel, which is due to deliver its much-anticipated report to Bush at the White House this morning and then unveil it to the public, outlined diplomatic and military ideas intended to change the course of the 44-month-old war.

Kerry told Barnicle that the Baker Commission and the Bush administration, need to "Get this policy right for the soldiers, for the region and for our country."

The transcript from Hardball with Mike Barnicle is as follows:
BARNICLE: The Baker Commission report tomorrow. There were elements of it that have been released in Time magazine, various newspapers, it would seem.

Are they just going to report the obvious?

KERRY: See, that's what I hope they don't do. This is really important.

The Baker Commission needs to not just find a consensus; that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the right policy. We're looking to get it right.

And what I think is critical -- I have felt all along you need that date to leverage.

Now I've heard rumors they won't have a date but, boy, they may come close to it or they ought to come close to it, because what's most critical here is: Change the behavior of the fighting factions in Iraq and change the behavior of the other countries in the region that can help have an impact on that behavior.

That's what's key: Get this policy right for the soldiers, for the region and for our country.

BARNICLE: Of the country and of the '08 presidential elections that are coming up, do you get the sense, do you hear anything anecdotally that this administration, with regard to its war policies in Iraq, with regard to the Baker Commission, is intent on passing nearly everything off to the next administration, Republican or Democrat?

KERRY: No, I really don't, Mike.

First of all, I think all this '08 stuff is way too early. I think what people are really excited about is the fact that we just elected a new Congress and that power has shifted.

And people are going to be waiting to measure what the Democrats do with that. Are we going to be responsible? Are we going to offer real choices to America?

And we're determined to try to do that.

Secondly, I think that this administration, nobody's interest -- the Republicans don't want to go in with this thing in the status quo.

And finally, we have a moral responsibility. I mean, if anything motivated me to come into public life, it was the issue of war and peace way back in the 1970s. And I remain as adamant today as a senator with sworn constitutional responsibilities: We've got to get this right.

We can't allow names to be added to a future memorial about Iraq and Afghanistan because we dillied around here and we were unwilling to confront the real issues.

That would be an abdication of every bit of responsibility that I certainly came here to exercise. We need to get it right.

BARNICLE: And '08 quickly, down the road, you're going to -- next year...

KERRY: That's down the road. That's down the road. Let's stay focused on what we need to be focused on.

BARNICLE: All right. Thank you, Senator John Kerry.