On September 9, Roll Call executive editor and FOX News Channel contributor Morton M. Kondracke falsely claimed that in Senator John Kerry's speech to the Democratic National Convention, Kerry said that if he is elected president, "[W]e'll [the United States] fight back only when attacked." Kerry said no such thing. Kondracke issued his false claim as he defended Vice President Dick Cheney from complaints about a comment Cheney made September 7 that the United States would risk another terrorist attack if voters made "the wrong choice" in November.
From the September 9 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
KONDRACKE: You know, I've been watching all of this stuff and low blows and stuff like that. It seems to me that what Cheney clearly meant is that you've got two different methods of fighting terrorism, that Kerry has said on occasion that it's we basically fight it with criminal law and intelligence work. And he has said we'll fight back only when attacked. He said that in his acceptance speech.
In fact, what Kerry said in his convention speech was that "a threat that was real and imminent" would qualify as "a justification for going to war." Kondracke appeared to be distorting a subsequent line in Kerry's speech, in which Kerry said: "Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response." But Kerry never said that an attack on America is the "only" circumstance in which he would go to war. The two relevant portions of Kerry's speech are as follows:
As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent." So lesson one, this is the only justification for going to war.
I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.