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Kerry Strikes Back

Boston Globe
As he runs for president, John Edwards has cast himself as a candidate who puts candor ahead of politics by saying he was wrong to vote for the Iraq war resolution. [snip] Yet as John Kerry's 2004 ticketmate, the former North Carolina senator was anything but eager to acknowledge error on Iraq. Instead, according to several Kerry-Edwards campaign aides, Edwards argued repeatedly that the two should stand by their votes, even after it had become apparent that Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor collaborative ties with Al Qaeda. The matter came to a head in 2004. On Aug. 6, with no WMD found and no terrorist ties discovered, President Bush commenced an audacious political gambit, declaring that even "knowing what we know now" he would still have invaded Iraq. What would Kerry have done, he demanded? To the dismay of many Democrats, Kerry, speaking at the Grand Canyon on Aug. 9, said he would still have voted for the war resolution because "it was the right authority for the president to have." His response was quickly seen as a lost opportunity. However, one man who had been adamant that Kerry shouldn't disavow his vote was Edwards. Although Edwards wasn't with Kerry that day, the two had been traveling by train together over the weekend. Once Bush issued his challenge, the campaign knew the press would soon put the question to the Democratic duo, and so, prior to an event on that Aug. 7 in La Junta, Colo., Kerry and Edwards and various aides huddled to discuss possible responses. "I specifically remember Edwards having a very distinct take," says one person in attendance, who paraphrases Edwards's argument this way: "We need to stick to this. We should stand by our votes, say we would vote that way again. If you admit a mistake, it shows weakness in time of war. That's what the Republicans want us to do." Adds a senior adviser who was there: "There was a discussion about how to answer the question: 'Was your vote on Iraq a mistake?' John Edwards had a very strong opinion that we should not waver, and it would show a sign of weakness if we did." A third source confirms those accounts.
Jason Zengerle