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"Diane, don't twist here," Sen. John Kerry told ABC's Diane Sawyer when asked if it would be a better thing for Saddam Hussein to be in power. "No, I would not prefer that."

Kerry did not accept the premise that the choice was either to leave Hussein in power or go to war to remove him from power, saying that there were other ways to get rid of Hussein, "Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely."

Kerry said what President Bush did "was a mistake" but he added that "we have to succeed now."

On whether the war in Iraq was worth it, Kerry said, "it depends on the outcome ultimately – and that depends on the leadership."

Kerry seemed to agree that if the generals want more troops that he would send them. "You have to protect our troops and you have to have an election," he said.

Kerry added, however, that his "goal is to get our troops out of Iraq" in his first term and that he has "no plans for long-term basing or for long-term presence. This Administration has never denied that, as a matter of fact. I do."

Asked about a report in the Financial Times that the foreign minister of France said that they have no plan to send troops to Iraq in a Kerry administration, Kerry said, "Well, first of all I've never said that I expect France or Germany to put troops on the ground, but there are plenty of things that they can do … it depends on the relationships. Secondly, I'd never expect them to say that now while a sitting president is there. No diplomat in no country and no government's going to do that."

Kerry denied that he was attacking Iraq's Prime Minister by saying Allawi was putting a best face on Bush's Iraq policy. "I'm not attacking him. Not attacking him at all. I – he's a strong man – I hope he's successful – I'm going to help him be successful. I'm simply … telling the truth about what is happening in Iraq, Diane."

Sen. John Kerry responded to polls that show 53 percent of Americans think he changes his mind too often by saying: "See, what the Republicans do—and they love to do--and they're very good at it—and they've spent millions of dollars doing it—is just find a little sentence here and find a little sentence there – and take it out of context. That's why I look forward to this debate…"

Asked about the "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" SOT which has been featured in numerous Bush-Cheney campaign ads, Kerry said, "It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something…. But it reflects the truth of the position, which is – I fought to have the wealthiest people in America share the burden of paying for that war. It was a protest. Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted, and that's what I did."

Asked if there is an elitist symbolism to windsurfing and snowboarding that people are responding to, Kerry said the guys he goes with are "regular folks – they're carpenters and electrician's guys who work on the island. If they want to have fun with it – that' fine…. What matters is – are the American people doing better under George Bush – and they're not...."


Senior advisors Mike McCurry and Mary Matilin did the morning show rounds this morning.

On CNN's "American Morning" McCurry previewed one of Kerry's responses to the flip-flop charge, saying "If you want to know who's been the flop, it's the President with his policies on Iraq and the economy." Shown the results of the Time poll in which the majority of voters expected Bush to "win" the debates, McCurry noted that "it's always good to go into one of these high profile debates as an underdog." And McCurry praised Al Gore's editorial today in the New York Times, saying "That is right on from somehow who knows. … I think Vice President Gore would be the first one to say that President Bush did quite a number on him" during their debates in 2000.

On "Today," Matilin defended the President's description of progress made in Iraq, saying Bush "is going off the information he's getting from Prime Minister Allawi and his generals on the ground." Matilin claimed that "75% of that country is peaceful and could be holding elections today" and that over 10 million people had registered to vote in Afghanistan, a number that Human Rights Watch is saying is inflated by as many as 5 million.

Shown a clip of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards' saying "If George Bush is asked what time it is, he'll talk about how Saddam Hussein had to go" on "American Morning," Matalin replied without missing a beat that, "Well, Saddam Hussein was a bad man and had to go." Practically chided in response by Bill Hemmer, Matalin shrugged her shoulders and said, "I presume she's saying that as a compliment."

On "Today" Matilin quipped that under former President Bill Clinton McCurry "had to defend the indefensible" and now he has to "explain the inexplicable."

On CBS' "Early Show," McCurry's critique of Bush's handling of the Iraq war moved Kerry back into the "wrong way" rather than "wrong war" line of attack.


ABC's Terry Moran reported that while the Bush-Cheney campaign is working to lower expectations but that behind the scenes their body language indicates they are cocky.


CBS' Jim Axelrod looked at two 527 ads – the ad attacking Kerry as not tough enough to take on fanatic killers like Osama Bin Laden and a "real voices" ad featuring the mom of a deceased Army specialist attacking Bush. Sound was taken from Edwards attacking the Osama ad as an effort to "exploit one of the great tragedies in American history." Cheney SOT bashing Kerry's vacillations opened the piece.