Tonight John Kerry has a chance to re-ignite his bid for the White House. But to do that he has to get the President off his game, which will be to see how many times he can say "flip flop" in 90 minutes.
That's why Kerry should use his opening statement to dispense with the two principal issues that Republicans have used to portray Kerry as a waffler--Kerry's vote on the Iraq use of force resolution and his voting record on the $87 billion military appropriation.
He needs to say something like this:
"In Oct. 2002 it was important to get arms inspectors into Iraq because US intelligence believed that Iraq had WMDs. Without the threat of attack those inspectors were not going to allowed in. The use of force resolution opened Iraq to inspection. When the inspectors continued to report back that there were no WMDs, the President continued to insist that they were wrong and that we had to invade. The inspectors asked for US intelligence that would point them to the WMDs. The President provided that intelligence but the inspectors still found no WMDs. We now know that the Inspectors were right and the President was wrong. There were no stockpiles of WMDs. There were no active WMD programs. And there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Had the president come back to Congress and the UN, worked in a bipartisan matter on a strategy, we would still have no WMDs in Iraq, we would have saved $200 billion, and more than 1000 American servicemen and women would still be alive today. That's why I voted for the use of force resolution then, and that's why I say now that it was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As to the infamous $87 billion that I supposedly voted for and against, here's the truth: I voted for a version of the $87 billion appropriated that would have given the troops all the money they needed but would also have allowed Congress to do its job and provide oversight in how that money was spent. I voted for a version of the $87 billion that contained no more give away, no-bid contracts for connected corporations. Instead, the Republicans in Congress killed that bill and presented another stripped of oversight and full of pork that would benefit the likes of Haliburton, the administrations' most favored corporation. That bill I voted against. The President would like to believe that Congress is just an appendage, there to do his bidding, but the founding fathers built in a system of checks and balances and it is the job of Senators to make sure that spending requests aren't loaded up with gifts to connected corporations. That's why I voted the way I did, and I was right to do so.
So, now that we've gotten these canards behind us, let's debate the future foreign policy of the nation."
After a statement like that, every time the President brings up the "flip flop" theme, Kerry will be able to say, "I've explained that, now what about policy?"