Kerry in no hurry to talk Iraq specifics

By Tim Grieve

Published May 27, 2004 3:00PM (EDT)

John Kerry delivers the first of three major national security and foreign policy speeches this morning in Seattle, but there won't be much focus on the war in Iraq. While the White House promised that Bush would lay out a "clear plan" for Iraq earlier this week -- and then saw the president deliver something less -- the Kerry camp is billing today's speech as a more general discussion of Kerry's national security vision.

In a conference call with reporters early this morning, members of Kerry's national security team said that anyone looking for a full explanation of Kerry's plan for Iraq should go back and read a speech he gave last month at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. That's not likely to play well with a mainstream press that launched another round of "why isn't Kerry doing more" stories today, but Kerry advisors say the candidate doesn't feel the need to "insert himself into the news cycle on Iraq."

Kerry has stepped up his Iraq rhetoric this week, and his advisors chimed in this morning. Arguing that Bush's Iraq policy has made America "weaker, not stronger," they said that the United States is inarguably losing the hearts and minds of those in the Arab world -- "not necessarily people who want to fly airplanes into buildings, but people wearing Osama bin Laden T-shirts and naming their kids after him."

Still, in an odd fit of timidity in a campaign that's starting to look more aggressive, Kerry's foreign policy team balked this morning when asked whether the United States would be in Iraq today if John Kerry had been elected president in 2000. Pressed on the question, former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said: "No one could say what another person would have done as commander-in-chief."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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