Bush's chief campaign strategist says 'Kerry was right' on Iraq
Published: Saturday March 31, 2007
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The chief strategist for President George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign wrote an editorial that said Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry was right in calling for a withdrawal from Iraq -- "Kerry Was Right" -- but never submitted it, according to an article to be published in Sunday's New York Times.

The article, "Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President," details the disenchantment of one of Bush's most senior campaign aides, Matthew Dowd.

Dowd was a keystone in the Administration's effort to portray Sen. Kerry as a flip-flopper "who could not be trusted with national security during wartime." He is the first of Bush's inner circle to break so publicly with him.

According to the Times, Dowd was a top strategist for Texas Democrats "who were disappointed by the Bill Clinton years" and "was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush's political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there."

He was appointed Bush's chief campaign strategist in 2004. Dowd now says his faith in Bush was "misplaced."

Excerpts follow.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a "my way or the highway" mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

Dowd... said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush's presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

"I'm a big believer that in part what we're called to do -- to me, by God; other people call it karma -- is to restore balance when things didn't turn out the way they should have," Mr. Dowd said. "Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election."

The White House responded through Communications Director Dan Bartlett, "who said he disagreed with Mr. Dowd's description of the president as isolated and with his position on withdrawal," but said "he was not surprised."