Democrats Accuse Bush of 'Flip-Flopping' on Winning the War

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry is seizing on President Bush's comment that it may not be possible to win the war on terrorism.

In an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer on Monday, the president -- answering a question about the war on terror -- said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world. Let's put it that way."

On Tuesday, in what some press reports called "damage control," Bush told the American Legion, "We may never sit down at a peace table, but make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win." Bush repeated the phrase "we will win" a number of times.

On Tuesday night in Nashville, Sen. Kerry told a crowd of supporters that he's been reading newspaper coverage of the Republican National Convention.

"All they're talking about is the war on terror, which the president yesterday said he doesn't think we can win. Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something: We can, we must and we will win the war on terror."

Kerry says he would do a better job fighting that war by bringing America's allies into the mix. He has hinted that he would have more clout with countries like France and Germany, given Europe's distaste for Bush.

The Kerry-Edwards website carried a message on Tuesday, saying "Bush flip-flops on winning the war on terror."

"A president of the United States should be unflinching in his resolve toward the war on terror," said Kerry's running mate John Edwards.

"Saying we can't win one day and flipping around the next day sends exactly the wrong message to the American people, to the world -- and most importantly -- to the terrorists who seek to harm us."

On Tuesday, President Bush not only repeated that America can win the war on terrorism -- he also told Rush Limbaugh (on a rare call-in to Limbaugh's radio show) that he should have been clearer in making his point to Matt Lauer:

"What I meant was that this is not a conventional war. It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology, who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool. They're trying to shake our conscience...And in a conventional war, there would be a peace treaty or there would be a moment where somebody would sit on the side and say, 'We quit.'

"That's not the kind of war we're in, and that's what I was saying."