Kerry Campaign Says Bush 'Surrogate' Is 'Blaming' US Troops

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

( - The Kerry campaign on Thursday accused Rudolph Giuliani -- described as President Bush's "top surrogate" -- of blaming U.S. troops for the missing explosives at Iraq's al Qaqaa facility.

Former New York City Mayor Giuliani did no such thing. But the fact that the Kerry campaign seized on Giuliani's remarks may indicate how sensitive the Kerry campaign is about the senator's standing with U.S. troops and the military vote in general.

"George Bush's hypocrisy knows no bounds," the Kerry campaign said in a statement on Thursday. "On the same day that his top surrogate (Giuliani) blames the troops for the missing explosives, the president has the audacity to cast stones at John Kerry. If George Bush understood what it means to be commander-in-chief, he'd understand that this is his responsibility and wouldn't be dispatching his allies to denigrate our troops."

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning, Giuliani praised President Bush for removing Saddam Hussein, calling it a "remarkable success" -- something President Bill Clinton tried but couldn't accomplish.

NBC Today show host Matt Lauer asked Giuliani why President Bush doesn't just come out and admit "the explosives were there, now they're not, a mistake was made, I'm commander-in-chief, we won't let it happen again?"

"John Kerry wants to pretend we do know what happened," Giuliani responded. "We don't know what happened."

Giuliani said no one knows if a mistake was made. "The president was cautious. The president did what a commander in chief should do -- and no matter how you try to blame it on the president, the responsibility would for it really would be for the troops that were there -- did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"

The Kerry campaign used that statement as evidence that Giuliani was blaming U.S. troops.

But in the next breath, Giuliani rejected Matt Lauer's suggestion that the missing explosives incident "cuts to the core of the problem that some people have with this president -- that he doesn't accept blame and rarely admits to a mistake."

"Not at all," Giuliani said. "I think what it shows is that the president is not willing to put blame on the troops when it isn't clear there should be blame. Things go wrong in war."

Giuliani added, "The reality is, we don't know what happened to those explosives -- and they represent a small fraction of the explosives that were destroyed."

Kerry campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart also jumped on Giuliani's comments Thursday:

"Early this morning, we learned the Bush campaign's latest strategy for dealing with the missing explosives in Iraq," Lockhart said in a statement. "Today, the Bush campaign booked...Rudy Guiliani on America's top-rated morning show, and his message was clear, simple and incredible: He said, 'The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?'"

Lockhart concluded, "This is just the latest example of the excuse presidency where the buck stops any place but the Oval Office."

The Kerry campaign and the senator himself have been very careful to say that they blame the Bush administration for the missing explosives at al Qaqaa -- not U.S. troops. But by extension, the Bush campaign says, Kerry also is blaming a presumed "failure" by U.S. troops.

On Wednesday, the Kerry-Edwards campaign released another last-minute TV ad, thanking America's soldiers and families for their sacrifice -- and stressing "John Kerry's commitment to always support our troops."

See Related Story:
Kerry Worried About Offending Troops? (28 Oct. 2004)