Mr. Kerrey, who once joined former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Mr. McCain on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group that advocated regime change, also said that he respected Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the President to go to war.
“She is saying: ‘Look, I’m not going to throw myself at the mercy of the court and have an abject apology—it looks weak, because it is weak—just to appease an audience,’” Mr. Kerrey said.
Mr. Kerrey thinks that Mr. Edwards—who, by contrast with Mrs. Clinton, has apologized profusely, even theatrically, for his vote—has “traveled a long distance from 2004, when people would say he seems awfully thin. Now what I hear people say is that there is too much attention to domestic policy and not enough to international, other than ‘I’m against the Iraq War and I made a mistake to vote for it.’”
Mr. Obama, he says, is “inexperienced,” but “on the foreign policy side, his big strength is that his name is Barack Hussein Obama.” He argued that Mr. Obama’s foreign-language skills, connection to Muslim countries and personal background uniquely qualify him to send the message that “we are not your worst enemy, unless you make us so. And then we’re your worst enemy.”
Of course, Mr. Kerrey no longer bears the responsibility of taking public positions on the issues of the day, and his own Iraq policy isn’t wholly defined. He argues that the United States achieved its goal of regime change in Iraq by deposing Saddam Hussein, and that it is not America’s role to police the nation, train its soldiers, or even stand in the way of widespread sectarian bloodshed. At the same time, he advocates robust military operations in the majority-Sunni Anbar province with the goal of wiping out Al Qaeda cells, and behaving like a “good ally” to an Iraqi government under siege by an insurgency.
Unlike Mr. Biden, who he says has “a very, very serious proposal of what to do” in Iraq, Mr. Kerrey is convinced the country should not be split up into ethnically homogonous regions and believes that it wants, at its core, to be unified. To that end, Mr. Kerrey wished that Washington would stop “meddling” in Iraq’s affairs.
At the same time, Mr. Kerrey is still very obviously suspicious of the ascendant out-of-Iraq portion of the Democratic electorate.
“Had we not invaded Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein—and if Iraq was experiencing the kind of sectarian violence that they are experiencing today—liberals would be advocating, as they are in Darfur, that we use military force to go in,” said Mr. Kerrey. “For any Democratic candidate, they are facing a very anti-war audience. And that’s reality.”