The Washington Times : a “flip-flop” grab bag

In a June 19 editorial, The Washington Times managed to hurl four misleading accusations of “flip-flopping” against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in just one paragraph.

From the June 19 edition of The Washington Times:

Sen. John Kerry's flamboyant flip flops -- like voting for the war in Iraq and then against the $87 billion to fund it, courting conservative Sen. John McCain for vice president before turning to liberal Sen. John Edwards and taking both sides on the first Gulf War in separate letters to the same constituent -- have garnered substantial attention in recent months. But lost in the turmoil are more subtle, but no less baffling, flip flops on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

Each accusation follows scripted talking points from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and from the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. The RNC accuses Kerry of flip-flopping on funding military operations for the Iraq war here; flip-flopping on the first Gulf War here; and flip-flopping on the same-sex marriage amendment here. And following Kerry's selection of Senator John Edwards (D-NC) to be his running mate, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign released an advertisement touting Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as Kerry's “first choice.”

Regarding the Times' accusation that Kerry flip-flopped on the Iraq war by voting against funding it (which the Times repeated in a June 20 editorial), Kerry voted against the $87 billion funding on October 17, 2003 -- the day after he made clear that his vote would not be a vote against funding American troops' efforts in Iraq. “I would gladly and proudly vote for any proposal this President offers that protects the troops and provides an effective plan to win the peace,” Kerry wrote in an October 16, 2003, statement. “I am voting 'no' on the Iraq resolution to hold the President accountable and force him finally to develop a real plan that secures the safety of our troops and stabilizes Iraq.”

Next, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, McCain never received an offer to join Kerry's presidential ticket. As the Associated Press reported in June, McCain's chief of staff, Mark Salter, said, ''Senator McCain categorically states that he has not been offered the vice presidency by anyone." McCain himself stated, on FOX News Radio's Tony Snow Show on July 7, that the vice presidency “was never offered” by Kerry.

According to a February 27, 1991, Associated Press report, the mailing of two Iraq-related letters to the same constituent, Walter Carter, was due to a computer error. (The letters addressed separate issues: The first pertained to Kerry's support for former President George H.W. Bush's policies -- including economic sanctions against Iraq -- immediately following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; the second pertained to Kerry's opposition to President George W. Bush's declaration of war against Iraq.) From the 1991 AP report:

Kerry aides said because of a computer error, Carter first received a letter aimed at constituents who opposed the war, and a week later got an outdated letter Kerry wrote last fall.

The second letter was a version originally mailed in September, soon after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and stated Kerry's outrage over the invasion and his support for Bush's policy of seeking economic sanctions.

Carter should have gotten a letter Kerry wrote in mid-January describing his support for a Senate resolution that would have given sanctions more time to work, Kerry aides said in a statement.

The Washington Times' accusation that Kerry flip-flopped on same-sex marriage included the charge that, after opposing a Massachusetts constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, "[n]ow, inexplicably, he supports the amendment." But the Massachusetts amendment that Kerry now supports is different from the amendment he has opposed in the past, in that it allows for civil unions.

Kerry signed a letter in 2002 -- along with other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation -- expressing opposition to a Massachusetts constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that would have, according to the Boston Globe on February 12, 2004, “outlaw[ed] gay marriage and, potentially, civil unions.” As the Globe reported in the same article, “Kerry's campaign said yesterday he has consistently opposed gay marriage while also rejecting legislation, such as the 2002 amendment, that he believed threatened the civil rights and recognition of gay relationships, because it was so broadly worded.”

On February 26, the Globe reported that Kerry said he would support a Massachusetts amendment banning same-sex marriage only if it, unlike the 2002 bill, would allow civil unions: "'If the Massachusetts Legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it, and it would advance the goal of equal protection,' the senator [Kerry] said. ... He has said he would oppose any amendment that did not include a provision for civil unions."

As The Washington Times itself reported on June 23, “The Massachusetts legislature has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would allow for civil unions.”