"In Iraq, we do not fault Mr. Bush for believing, as President Clinton before him believed, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. We supported the war and believed that the Iraqi dictator posed a challenge that had to be faced; we continue to believe that the U.S. mission to promote a representative government in Iraq has a chance to leave the United States safer and the Iraqis far better off than they were under their murderous dictator.
We do, however, fault Mr. Bush for exaggerating to the public the intelligence given him privately and for alienating allies unnecessarily. Above all, we fault him for ignoring advice to better prepare for postwar reconstruction. The damage caused by that willful indifference is incalculable. There is no guarantee that Iraq would be more peaceful today if U.S. forces had prevented postwar looting, secured arms depots, welcomed international involvement and transferred authority to Iraqis more quickly. But the chances of success would have been higher. Yet the administration repeatedly rebuffed advice to commit sufficient troops. Its disregard for the Geneva Conventions led to a prison-torture scandal in both Iraq and Afghanistan that has diminished for years, if not decades, the United States' image and influence abroad. In much of the world, in fact, U.S. prestige is at a historic low, partly because of the president's high-handed approach to allies on issues ranging far beyond Iraq.
These failings have a common source in Mr. Bush's cocksureness, his failure to seek advice from anyone outside a narrow circle and his unwillingness to expect the unexpected or adapt to new facts. These are dangerous traits in any president but especially in a wartime leader. They are matched by his failure to admit his errors or to hold senior officials accountable for theirs.
We have been dismayed most of all by Mr. Kerry's zigzags on Iraq, such as his swervings on whether Saddam Hussein presented a threat. As Mr. Bush charges, Mr. Kerry's description of the war as a "diversion" does not inspire confidence in his determination to see it through. But Mr. Kerry has repeatedly pledged not to cut and run from Iraq, and we believe a Kerry administration would be better able to tackle the formidable nation-building tasks that remain there. Mr. Kerry echoes the Bush goals of an elected Iraqi government and a well-trained Iraqi force to defend it but argues that he could implement the strategy more effectively.
Mr. Kerry understands that the biggest threat to U.S. security comes from terrorists wielding nuclear or biological weapons. He pledges to add two divisions to the U.S. Army; try harder to secure nuclear weapons and materials around the world, and improve U.S. preparations for a bioterrorism attack. There is no way to know whether he would be more successful than Mr. Bush in slowing North Korea's and Iran's march toward becoming nuclear-armed states, but he attaches the right priority to both problems. He is correct that those challenges, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, call for the kind of sustained diplomacy that has been missing for four years. We hope he would be firmer than Mr. Bush in standing up to the genocide unfolding in Sudan.
We do not view a vote for Mr. Kerry as a vote without risks. But the risks on the other side are well known, and the strengths Mr. Kerry brings are considerable. He pledges both to fight in Iraq and to reach out to allies; to hunt down terrorists, and to engage without arrogance the Islamic world. These are the right goals, and we think Mr. Kerry is the better bet to achieve them."
The Post's endorsement capped off a great newspaper day for Sen. Kerry, picking up 17 new papers that supported Bush in 2000 today alone. Three more Bush-2000 supporters, The New Orleanes Times-Picayune, The Harrisburg Patriot-News, and The Detriot News (which has never supported a Demcratic Presidential Candidate) all refused to deliver an endorsement at all. To top it all off, Kerry flipped the Orlando Sentinel from Bush, capping a sweep of every major Florida newspaper. Kerry now leads Bush 113-71 in endorsements by Editor & Publisher's count, and by about 14.4 million to 8.6 million in the circulation of backing papers
But the day wasn't all lost for Bush. He recieved the hotly contested Columbus Dispatch endorsement (though they're even more subdued about it than the Post was), which will be a big boon in razor's edge Ohio. And speaking of Ohio, its been reported that the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the other major Ohio paper up for grabs, has delayed its endorsement decision. Apparently, the editorial board voted to endorse Kerry, but the publisher, who has the final say, backs Bush. The endorsement was put off to allow heads to cool and attempt to work out a compromise, possibly in the form of a dissenting pro-Kerry editorial.
I want to return to Dispatch editorial, because it raised an interesting argument that I think need to be addressed. The Dispatch notes that it opposed the Iraq war originally but
"The most crucial challenge facing the next president is winning the peace in Iraq. Although the rationale for the Iraq war has been proved wrong, no one should underestimate the stakes now. The United States must see the job through to the end.
For far too long, dictators and terrorists have believed that Americans lack staying power. Friends and enemies of the United States are watching closely to see if the casualties and expense of the war will sap the nation’s will to plant democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. For America, there is no other choice but to succeed. Failure will sow more terrorism and tyranny.
Like it or not, America must stand firm."
I'm in entire agreement (except that I supported the war), and furthermore I think this a point KERRY should have made earlier, because I think it dovetails nicely with his criticism of how the war was conducted. By making this argument, he could dodge accusations that he is weak on terror while still scoring all the points he's getting now by hammering Bush on Iraq. I wonder if had made this argument, would he have swung the Dispatch? The election?