Kerry, Webb and the Democrats’ Vietnam

By Nitya

Jan 24, 2007 4:40pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Before he announced on the Senate floor today that he will not be running again for President, Senator John Kerry appeared at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There he joined the debate on the Hagel anti-surge resolution. He spoke concisely and firmly, for Kerry, about the troops in Iraq:

"We sent them there.  We authorized it.  A mistake, in my judgment.  I take responsibility for that.   But the responsibility is even greater now to get this right. Senator Sununu, you said, you know, we got to have a debate.  We don’t have to have a debate.  We got to get it right.  That’s our obligation:  get it right for those troops."

Kerry also mentioned his own military service and subsequent opposition to the Vietnam war, a contradiction that figured heavily in his 2004 White House bid. In doing so, he motioned to his colleague on the committee, Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, perhaps a rising star in the party, who delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union last night, Its notable that Democrats are embracing Webb, a former Republican who, Kerry pointed out, always supported the Vietnam war, and that Kerry, a famous Vietnam protester, is out of favor since his 2004 loss to George W. Bush.

"In 1971, when I came back from Vietnam, I engaged in what remains a controversial effort," Kerry said. "I spoke out, as a young veteran, against the war.  And some people disagreed with that, including Senator Webb, who’s here.  But I spoke the truth and I spoke my heart.  And history has underscored that everything I said then — even the training manuals of the Army were changed to reflect what happened there.  It was true. And in recent months, I’ve met with increasing numbers of Iraqi veterans who come to my office, very different in, sort of, deportment and make-up from folks 35 years ago or more, but equally earnest and equally concerned about what’s happening over there."

For his part, Webb answered Kerry, saying roughly that the Senate should focus on Iraq and not Vietnam. Webb said there are parallels between Vietnam and the war in Iraq, but they are largely superficial. He argued that "In August of 1972, the Harris Survey, a more liberal survey, 8 years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, showed that the American people still believed  that it was important that Vietnam not fall to communism."

Webb also points to this survey on his website.

Iraq, Webb said, is very different. He pointed to current polls showing very low support for Iraq and polls, he said, that show even American troops are failing in their support for the war.

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