Well sure...among other things!
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX FEB 27, 2006 18:01:23 ET XXXXX
BUSH NOW ADMITS BIN LADEN HELPED HIM BEAT JOHN KERRY
President Bush now says his 2004 victory over Sen. John Kerry, who is mulling a comeback in 2008, was inadvertently aided by al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
And Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who steadfastly refused to defend Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth when he ran Bush’s campaign, now calls them “heroes” who played a crucial role in vanquishing Kerry.
Bill Sammon, Senior White House Correspondent for the WASHINGTON EXAMINER, scores another exclusive for Tuesday editions with explosive excerpts from his new book, STRATEGERY.
For the first time, the president says he was helped by bin Laden, who put out a videotaped diatribe against Bush the Friday before the 2004 election.
Bush said there were “enormous amounts of discussion” inside his campaign about the 15-minute tape, which he called “an interesting entry by our enemy” into the presidential race.
“What does it mean? Is it going to help? Is it going to hurt?” he said in an exclusive interview for the new book STRATEGERY. “Anything that drops in at the end of a campaign that is not already decided creates all kinds of anxieties, because you’re not sure of the effect.
“I thought it was going to help,” he decided. “I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.”
Mehlman agreed, citing polls that show Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats on matters of national security.
“It reminded people of the stakes,” he said in an interview for STRATEGERY. “It reinforced an issue on which Bush had a big lead over Kerry.”
Even the mainstream media fretted about the tape’s potential to help Bush. Former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite told CNN that White House strategist Karl Rove “probably set up bin Laden to this thing.”
The bin Laden tape was not the only curveball thrown at Bush in the closing days of the campaign. The NEW YORK TIMES published a story faulting the administration for failing to safeguard a cache of weapons in Iraq that went missing around the time of the U.S. invasion more than eighteen months earlier.
Some Republicans regarded the story as a political “stink bomb,” much like the revelation just before the 2000 election that Bush had once been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Bush said the weapons flap “was different from the DUI story, which defined me personally—as opposed to my policies. And there’s a difference.”
The Times quoted Kerry accusing the president of “incredible incompetence” and calling the missing explosives “one of the great blunders of Iraq.”
Bush responded by turning Kerry’s newfound concern over weapons against him.
“After repeatedly calling Iraq the wrong war, and a diversion, Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place, full of dangerous weapons,” Bush deadpanned, drawing laughter from an audience in Pennsylvania.
Mehlman was similarly incredulous that Kerry would deviate from his long-held position that Bush had exaggerated the weapons threat in Iraq.
“I was stunned that he brought it up,” the campaign manager said. “He was essentially saying it was wrong to remove Saddam Hussein, even though we’ve just discovered all these dangerous weapons in the country.
“Politics is like a chess game,” he added. “If you don’t think a few moves ahead, then you always end up like Homer Simpson going, ‘Doh!’”
Even more helpful to the Bush campaign was the flap over Kerry’s Vietnam service. For the first time, Mehlman is now defending the Swift Boat veterans, who questioned Kerry’s Vietnam record and savaged his claim that U.S. soldiers were war criminals.
“These are people who are incredible,” Mehlman said of the “Swifties.” “You may disagree with what they’re saying. But these are heroes. These are people that suffered in prison camps for America.
“And to respond and say, ‘These are bums who don’t have a right to speak. But other veterans who agree with us do,’ is responding with a hammer and not a scalpel,” he added. “The Kerry campaign seemed unable to use a scalpel. Instead, they had to use a hammer for everything.”
After the election, Rove and other Bush officials initially downplayed any role the Swift Boat Veterans might have played in the campaign. But now there is widespread acknowledgment in the White House that the veterans were pivotal in vanquishing Kerry.
“I felt they had a very big impact,” Mehlman said.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said in an interview that the Swift Boat Veterans “had an impact to Kerry’s detriment. I think they tended to put him on the defensive.”
But that impact would not have been possible if Kerry had not spent so much time emphasizing his Vietnam record, Mehlman said.
“I think the mistake that Kerry made was making the entire essence of his campaign that he served in Vietnam,” he said. “Ultimately, it wasn’t that relevant of an issue.”
Besides, by focusing on Vietnam, Kerry invited criticism of his 1971 congressional testimony that fellow Vietnam veterans were war criminals, Mehlman said.
“No one’s taking away his service,” he emphasized. “The question was his judgment when he came back.”
Ultimately, Kerry’s emphasis on Vietnam proved self-defeating.
“It reinforced something about him,” Mehlman said. “By the end of the campaign, from a character perspective, he came across as a guy who is just ambition over everything.”
He contrasted Kerry unfavorably with former Sen. Bob Dole, Kansas Republican, who was severely wounded in World War II, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Kerry thought the same thing. After the disastrous debates that sagged Bush's poll numbers, Bin Laden threatening the Red State cities if they voted for Bush was like manna from heaven.
In other news, water is wet!
Well OBL and Kerry himself... if Kerry had not tried to take advantage of the OBL tape it would have done him no harm... another self-inflicted wound.