Flip-flop cop-out at The Washington Times

In a September 28 news article, The Washington Times made clear that it has fully bought into the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's spin that Senator John Kerry has “flip-flopped” on the Iraq war. While other news outlets have reported in recent days that the facts do not support the “flip-flop” accusation against Kerry, The Washington Times reported it as fact.

Under the headline "Bush attacks Kerry's flip-flops," Washington Times senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon (and FOX News Channel political analyst) reported:

President Bush yesterday signaled his strategy for this week's debate with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry by mocking the Massachusetts senator's penchant for flip-flopping.

Mr. Kerry “could spend 90 minutes debating himself,” Mr. Bush said.

“It's been a little tough to prepare for the debate because he keeps changing his positions, especially on the war,” Mr. Bush said with a chuckle during a campaign swing through southern Ohio. “He voted for the use of force in Iraq and then didn't vote to fund the troops.

” He complained that we're not spending enough money to help in the reconstruction of Iraq, and now he's saying we're spending too much," he added. “He said it was the right decision to go into Iraq; now he calls it the wrong war.”

During practice sessions for Thursday's debate in Coral Gables, Fla., the president worked at highlighting Mr. Kerry's record of taking both sides on issues when sparring with Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who played the Democratic candidate, campaign officials said.

Sammon buried Kerry's September 27 statement on his stance on Iraq in the article's thirteenth paragraph:

“I've had one position all the way, folks,” he [Kerry] said at a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin. “I thought we ought to stand up and hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but only if we did it the right way.”

Meanwhile, other news organizations, as well as a nonpartisan consumer advocate organization, have reported that Kerry's statements on Iraq have been consistent and do not merit this attack.

San Francisco Chronicle Washington bureau chief Marc Sandalow, in a September 23 news analysis article:

No argument is more central to the Republican attack on Sen. John Kerry than the assertion that the Democrat has flip-flopped on Iraq. ... Yet an examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.

Knight Ridder Newspapers' Thomas Fitzgerald, in a September 24 news analysis article:

Beneath the torrent of campaign verbiage, however, Kerry's position on Iraq for the past two years has been consistent and defensible -- just difficult to sell in a sound-bite world.

Annenberg Political Fact Check, in a September 27 article titled "Bush Ad Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq: Selective use of Kerry's own words makes him look inconsistent on Iraq. A closer look gives a different picture."

Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry's words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it.