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With flip-flop jab, John Kerry turns the tables on Mitt Romney

Posted by Rob Anderson  September 7, 2012 12:17 AM

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CHARLOTTE — When John Kerry was running for president, Mitt Romney was a harsh home-state critic. Now that Romney is running, Kerry is taking great delight in returning the, um, favor.

Back during Kerry’s campaign, Romney, then the Republican governor of Massachusetts, portrayed Kerry as an internally conflicted candidate and a flip-flopper.

In Kerry’s Thursday speech to the Democratic convention, the Democratic senator was so intent on making the same charge stick that he alluded to his own classic verbal gaffe from 2004 to underscore that point.

“It isn't fair to say Mitt Romney doesn't have a position on Afghanistan,” Kerry said. “He has every position. He was against setting a date for withdrawal — then he said it was right — and then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was ‘tragic’ to leave Iraq, and then he said it was fine. He said we should've intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to run away from the reporters asking questions. Then he said the intervention was too aggressive. Then he said the world was a ‘better place’ because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it before you were against it!”

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also took aim at Romney’s star-crossed summer trip abroad.

“It wasn't a goodwill mission,” he declared. “It was a blooper reel.”

And he appropriated the Romney-Ryan question about whether voters were better off than they were four years ago as he made the case for Obama’s foreign-policy successes.

“After more than ten years without justice for thousands of Americans murdered on 9/11, after Mitt Romney said it would be ‘naïve’ to go into Pakistan to pursue the terrorists, it took President Obama, against the advice of many, to give that order and finally rid this earth of Osama bin Laden,” Kerry said. “Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago.”

In 2006, when Kerry, then hoping to wage a second campaign for president, botched a joke in a way that let partisans foes accuse him (absurdly) of insulting our troops in Iraq, Romney pounced.

When he accepted the GOP nomination last week, Romney raised eyebrows by neglecting to mention our troops.

On Thursday, Kerry pounced. “No nominee for president should ever fail in the midst of a war to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech,” Kerry thundered. “Mitt Romney was talking about America. They are on the front lines every day defending America, and they deserve our thanks.”

If Obama wins re-election, Kerry is obviously on the short list to be the next secretary of state. And if Romney wins? Well, the new Republican president should expect to have a very sharp critic on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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