Sunday, April 01, 2007

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

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.


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