Consider this passage from Howard Fineman’s latest online dispatch for Newsweek on the current state of the campaign:

This campaign so far has been almost exclusively, increasingly, about the war in Iraq. On one level, John Kerry’s “position” is a contradictory bundle of confusion. He says the war was a mistake, but he’s the guy calling for a gung-ho strategy in Fallujah to root out terrorist nests.

In exactly what world is it contradictory to say that the war was a mistake and the occupation a mess, but now that we’re in that mess we have to carry on and make it right? Is that idea too subtle for Fineman to grasp?

We suspect that what’s really going on here is that Fineman knows his column will not make the Bush campaign happy; its main premise is that the campaign in its final weeks has boiled down to “the president desperately trying to tear down Kerry as the news tears down the president.” So Fineman feels compelled to throw in some jabs at Kerry in search of “balance.”

Certainly there is room to criticize Kerry’s often circuitous stance on Iraq, past, present and future. But Fineman’s critique just doesn’t make sense.


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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.