FOX News Channel host Fred Barnes and Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman claimed that “everybody knew” at the time that a vote for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq constituted a vote for war. But that's not what President George W. Bush said on the day he sent the resolution to Congress.
Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, made the claim in an attempt to undermine National Public Radio national political correspondent (and FOX News Channel contributor) Mara Liasson's assertion that Senator John Kerry described his position on the war “very clearly” in his September 20 speech at New York University. Further, Barnes cast Kerry's position as “incoherent.”
From the September 21 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
LIASSON: He [Kerry] said he would have voted for the resolution because the president deserves that authority. But in hindsight, knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction, he would not have gone to war to remove Saddam Hussein. He said that very clearly. And he said [sic] because Bush says he would do everything the same way, even knowing now what --
BARNES: I know, but that's an incoherent position, because when you voted for that resolution, as everybody knew, you were voting for war. You weren't voting for what Kerry wanted. He [Kerry] was voting for war. That's what the resolution was about.
From the September 22 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
IMUS: The point is, he did vote to authorize this and then he said and, I thought lamely, that, well, he didn't expect, he didn't expect the president to go about it the way he went about it. Well, what the heck did he think was going to happen?
FINEMAN: That doesn't hold up very well because everybody, everybody at the time knew precisely what that vote was for. It wasn't just for authorizing. It was for going because everybody knew that Bush was already aiming to go so that's what he voted for. There's no question about it.
Here's what Bush said on September 19, 2002, the day he sent the Iraq resolution to Congress:
QUESTION [asked during Oval Office photo opportunity]: Mr. President, how important is it that that resolution give you an authorization of the use of force?
BUSH: That will be part of the resolution, the authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace. That's what this is all about.