Kerry weighed politics versus lives in 2002 vote

Traprock ed note: It seems politics won. Does this surprise anyone who was paying attention at the time? See Charles Jenks’ June 20, 2003 article at

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | May 28, 2007 original article

WASHINGTON — Senator John F. Kerry voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 after weighing the political ramifications and being told by his future campaign manager that he would never be elected president in 2004 unless he sided with President Bush on the issue, according to a forthcoming book by Kerry’s former strategist.

The book by veteran Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum, titled “No Excuses,” paints a portrait of an often-dysfunctional Kerry presidential campaign in which senior strategists clashed with each other.

It also quotes e-mails from Kerry’s former campaign manager that are highly critical of the behavior of Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry . An advance copy of the memoir of Shrum’s years in politics, slated for release in early June, was provided to the Globe.

Shrum, who was brought into the campaign to help provide Kerry with a strategic overview, provides a vivid de scription about the events leading up to Kerry’s decision to vote for the war.
He writes that Kerry telephoned him on the eve of the Oct. 11, 2002, vote. Shrum said Kerry was skeptical of Bush’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that he “didn’t trust Bush to give the diplomatic route a real chance.” Nonetheless, Kerry asked Shrum whether he would “be a viable general election candidate if he was in the small minority of senators who voted no.”
Shrum wrote that he told Kerry it was “impossible to predict the political fallout if we went to war.” But he wrote that Jim Jordan, Kerry’s former Senate press secretary and future campaign manager, “was insisting that he had to vote with Bush.”

Shrum wrote that Jordan had “hammered” Kerry with a warning: “Go ahead and vote against it if you want, but you’ll never be president of the United States.” Kerry voted for the war resolution and Jordan became Kerry’s campaign manager three months later.

Kerry declined to comment on Shrum’s book.

His spokesman, Vincent Morris, said, “Senator Kerry voted [for the war resolution] based on the promise of effective diplomacy and because he believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He’s said previously that this was the most difficult vote he’s ever cast and he’s acknowledged his vote was a mistake. Since that day, he’s been one of the Senate’s most outspoken voices to end the war.”

Asked about the conversation, Jordan answered, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to recount those conversations with Senator Kerry, but it’s ridiculous to contend that I had the influence to manipulate a man of his stature and substance and judgment on a vote of war and peace. Right or wrong, it was a vote based in conscience and conviction.”

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Kerry’s fellow Massachusetts Democrat, urged Kerry to vote against the war, according to Shrum. Kennedy talked with Kerry on the Senate floor before the vote, Shrum wrote, and “passionately contended that even if it looked like good politics now, siding with Bush was wrong on the merits — and even politically.”

Kerry’s vote for the war resolution opened the door for the surge of the Howard Dean candidacy, which became focused on the antiwar view of the former Vermont governor, according to Shrum.
Kerry, however, thought the Iraq war would be over quickly, Shrum wrote, adding that the senator said to him that “whatever misgivings he had about Bush’s course, the Iraq war, if it came, probably, almost certainly, would be over by the primaries.”

Aides to Kerry said it was natural for the senator to seek political advice from Shrum about the vote and stressed that Kerry also talked to CIA director George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell, both of whom have said they believed at the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Kerry’s chief of staff, David McKean, said he walked with Kerry to the Senate floor before the vote. He recalled telling the senator: “Obviously a huge factor here is whether you believe there are weapons of mass destruction. He said, ‘I have no doubt about that.’ ”

In his book, Shrum acknowledges that he is viewed as being a “curse” to Democratic presidential candidates. The Massachusetts resident wrote that he worked on eight failed presidential campaigns, but notes that he directed 30 successful Senate campaigns.

Shrum, who declined to comment for this story, provides numerous examples of infighting within the campaign — particularly between him and Jordan.

As a senior strategist, he often clashed with Jordan, whose role as campaign manager also included strategic decisions. Shrum was among those who wanted Jordan ousted; Kerry eventually fired Jordan in November 2003 and replaced him with Mary Beth Cahill, a Shrum ally.

Shrum quotes from e-mails he said Jordan wrote about Kerry’s wife. Jordan is quoted as worried about Teresa Heinz Kerry’s interview with The New York Times: “What are the odds — take this as I mean it pls — that she won’t [expletive deleted] this up . . . wallow in victimhood. . . . There’s always a chance she’ll say something stupid. This has to stop.”

Shrum also has some criticism of Kerry, although it is usually paired with some praise.
For example, he wrote at length about Kerry’s decision to deliver a much-criticized South Carolina speech in which he formally announced his campaign. The outdoor speech — during which Kerry was drenched in sweat — later was portrayed as long-winded. Shrum wrote that Kerry wanted to kick off the campaign in Iowa, “but once again he allowed himself to be persuaded to go against his own instincts.”

At another point, Shrum wrote that in times of crisis, Kerry “was bold and decisive. At other times, he tended to second-guess, revise, fiddle, confer with anyone in sight, and try to please everyone around him. For him, I think the easier days in the White House might have been harder.”

Shrum, who subtitled his book “Concessions of a Serial Campaigner,” concedes that he made “indisputable mistakes” in 2004, backing a decision not to respond to attacks on Kerry’s Vietnam service with television ads in August 2004. Shrum said that the decision was forced, in part, by the campaign’s need to conserve money for the fall.

He also wrote that Kerry wanted his campaign to return fire, and “he was angry that we hadn’t listened to him and struck back sooner.” The failure to respond to the attacks has often been cited as one of the reasons for Kerry’s defeat.

The Kerry-Shrum relationship soured over time. Shrum wrote that after The Washington Post reported that Kerry was blaming Shrum and others for the campaign’s problems, “Kerry, who could have quieted this with a sentence or two, said nothing. My wife was enraged . . . [saying] ‘Bob, he’s left you up the river.’ ”

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