Kerry Says Bush, Cheney Deny Reality

By Matea Gold

Los Angeles Times

October 8, 2004

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Sen. John F. Kerry lashed out at his Republican rivals today with some of his strongest language yet, saying that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are denying the reality in Iraq, and accusing the administration of concocting evidence to mislead America into war there.

Reacting to a CIA report released Wednesday that showed Iraq did not have a program to build nuclear weapons, Kerry said the primary rationale the Bush administration gave to invade Iraq has now been undermined.

"This week has provided definitive evidence as to why George Bush should not be reelected president of the United States," Kerry said at a brief new conference outside a conference center in a Denver suburb where he has been preparing for his next debate with Bush. "Whether it's the situation in Iraq or whether it's the situation here in America, he is not being straight with Americans.

"The primary justification for going to war, the reason the Congress gave the president au thority to use force, after he had exhausted all the other remedies, was to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction," the Massachusetts senator said.

Kerry recited examples of the intelligence the administration offered to prove Iraq had a weapons program, "all designed, all purposely used to shift the focus from Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, to Iraq and Saddam Hussein."

"All with the result that the president shifted the focus from the real enemy, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, to an enemy that they aggrandized and fictionalized," he added.

The Democrat said that Bush was in "absolute full spin mode" when he addressed the CIA report this morning.

"He cited several new reasons for taking America to war and reiterated the belief that he would do everything exactly as he did it," he said. "My fellow Americans, you don't make up or find reasons to go to war after the fact."

With an incredulous chuckle, Kerry added : "This morning, the vice president actually s aid that the CIA report did not undermine the rationale for going to war."

"Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and vice president of the United States may well be the last two people on the planet who won't face the truth about Iraq," he said.

Kerry said that his rival refused to take responsibility for his handling of Iraq.

"Does he take responsibility for his mistakes? Does he recognize publicly how bad the situation is, and lead the way a leader should lead?" he asked. "Of course not. The president responded with a brand new stump speech featuring more dishonest attacks on me.

"For President Bush, it's always someone's else fault," Kerry added.

The senator said that "there is a clear difference between President Bush and me. You'll always get the truth from me, in good times and in bad times, and I will never mislead the American people. The president has not met that standard."

Kerry, who voted to give Bush authority to go to war, said the CIA report proved that U.N. sanctions were preventing Saddam Hussein from resuming a program to build weapons of mass destruction.

But the Bush campaign hastened to note that Kerry had cited Hussein's supposed weapons program as the justification for his vote to authorize invading Iraq, and had repeatedly warned over the years that Iraq posed a threat, even with inspections.

Kerry said today that he still believes Hussein was a threat, and would have wanted to get congressional authorization to use force against him if he had been president. But he argued that there were other ways to neutralize the Iraqi dictator than attacking the country.

"It is completely consistent that you can see him as a threat and deal with him realistically, just as we saw the Soviet Union and China and others as threats, and have dealt with them in other ways," he said.

The Democrat would not say whether he would increase the number of troops in Iraq if he is elected, saying only that he would fo llow the advice of military generals.

"I don't know what I'm going to find on Jan. 20, the way the president is going," he said. "If the president just does more of the same every day and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking."