KERRY: I think this administration has dropped the ball on homeland security. I think they are now moving to catch up, but what America wants is leadership that's ahead of the curve, which doesn't have to be told by an independent commission, which they, incidentally, fought to prevent--they didn't want this commission--they tried to slow walk this commission. ...
EDWARDS: We're gonna stay focused on what we're going to do for America ...
WALLACE: Senator Kerry, in your convention speech ... you said, let's be optimists, not opponents. Let's take the high road. But in your speech, you said, the President misled us into war. You said that he's playing politics ...
KERRY: No, I said I will never mislead us into war.
WALLACE: Well, the implication was, this President did. In fact, you said he did.
KERRY: I said he did -- correct -- and I have said it several times. But in the speech I didn't. You're quoting my speech ...
Kerry makes this last ridiculous point pedantically, as if it's at the very core of what really matters. We were going "huh?" and then laughing.
I was alternately laughing and groaning throughout this meandering evasion. How many times and at what length are we going to have to listen to Kerry chide Bush for going negative and then self-servingly elaborate why all of his criticisms of Bush don't count as negative?
KERRY: I didn't say that. I said I will never mislead us.
WALLACE: But ... you don't disagree with the premise that you have said that he ... that he misled us.
KERRY: Well, all Americans understand what's happened now.
WALLACE: That's not my question, anyway, my question is, there's that and you also said that you won't play politics with the Constitution. Implication: this President has played politics...
WALLACE: ... with the Constitution. Isn't that what John Edwards calls the negative politics of the past?
KERRY: No, those are comparisons of choices about the values that we bring to politics. You know, you hear a lot of talk about values in America. I think that the choices that you make in your policies reflect your values, and the things that you try to champion. John and I want health care for all Americans. That's a value. John and I believe that you shouldn't talk about no child left behind and then not fund the education system so that no child is left behind. That's a value. Under our plan, we're going to fund education, we're going to respect educators, teachers, we're going to bring our schools up in a positive and affirmative way. They're choosing to do one thing, and we have an affirmative choice. Obviously, we have to talk about the comparative choices. That's not name-calling. That's not petty and small. We have a big idea of health care for all Americans. We have a big idea for young people to afford to be able to go to college, where tuitions are going up. We have a big idea for restoring America's reputation in the world and fighting a more effective war on terror. To compare how we will fight the war on terror is the center of this campaign and that's what Americans want to know.
UPDATE: Liberty Corner aptly asks "What on earth does any of that have to do with the Consitution?" I'd say that Kerry was implicitly substituting the less specific question: aren't you going negative? Which he, of course, proceeded to evade anyway. And he was such a stickler a moment before that assertion that the President had mislead us into war was not in the convention speech (though he's said it elsewhere many times and the convention speech implied it).