KERRY AND IRAQ….Bob Somerby, in his usual tolerant and long-suffering way, is a wee bit upset with press coverage of John Kerry’s position on the Iraq war:

What is Kerry?s stand on Iraq? Readers, get ready for some real brain-work! Here goes: Kerry says Bush should have had the authority to go to war, but then went to war prematurely. Wow! Have you finished scratching your heads about all the nuance involved in that statement?

In fairness, let’s all admit that Kerry is not exactly a wizard at making his positions clear and unequivocal. He does bring some of this on himself.

Still, Bob is right: Kerry might not be the best speaker in the world, but his position on the war has been pretty consistent all along. Even William Saletan, the best known critic of Kerry’s “caveats and curlicues,” came to the same conclusion after examining a Republican video of Kerry’s supposed flip-flops on Iraq: the RNC video carefully edits Kerry’s quotes to make them look inconsistent, but in fact every one of them tells the same story. He summarized the RNC clips in a Slate article on Thursday:

Kerry wants pressure and inspections….doubts Iraq would comply with inspections, but he thinks we have to go through the process of trying….doesn’t like the way Bush is pursuing the goal, particularly because it “alienated our allies.”

….consistent with Kerry’s previous statements calling for “heat,” “inspections,” “process,” and cooperation with “allies.”….No conflict here….voting to turn up the heat and get compliance with inspections….Bush betrayed two of Kerry’s principles: process and allies….it isn’t a change of position.

….This is the same position Kerry has stated all along: compliance, inspections, skepticism, process….There you have it. Edwards says if Kerry had been president, we would have found out Iraq had no WMD, and “we would never be in this place.” Kerry emphatically agrees with this translation.

You can decide for yourself whether you like this position, but it’s not hard to grasp. That’s especially true for the press, since they know very well that there are lots and lots of liberal hawks and other former war supporters who have exactly the same position: pressuring Saddam was good, inspections were good, and eventually war might have been good too.

But Bush blew it: he failed to rally world opinion, he failed to get the Arab world on our side, he failed to let the inspections process run its course, and he failed to plan properly for the postwar occupation. The result is a loss of American power and prestige, a diminished chance of Iraq becoming a pluralistic democracy, and an al-Qaeda that’s been given a second lease on life thanks to George Bush’s Queeg-like obsession with Saddam Hussein.

Not so hard to understand at all.