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John Kerry and John McCain: That was then, this is now

Around this time in 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts had all but locked up the Democratic presidential nomination and was beginning to think about his vice presidential choicesFormer 2004 Democratic nominee for president Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts on Fox News Sunday backs away from his nice words about Arizona Senator John McCain as a possible vice presidential running mate back then. McCain is now the presumptive Republican Party nominee for president.

You may recall there was a strong push for him to consider a "unity ticket" and choose the leading maverick in the GOP as his running mate -- a "dream team," as onetime Kerry strategist Chris Lehane put it.

The same name was also the first one Kerry offered when asked by radio host Don Imus in May 2004 whom he would name as Secretary of Defense.

Who was this inspiring individual? "Our good friend John McCain," as Kerry described his fellow Vietnam veteran on the Imus show.

Yes, the same John McCain who's now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

But during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Kerry backed away ...

from his earlier comments when pressed by host Chris Wallace about his opinion of the Arizona senator.

"Back in 2004, you spoke very differently about John McCain," Wallace said.  "You considered him as a possible vice presidential running mate. In May of 2004, you said that McCain was your first choice to be Secretary of Defense, and that's at a time when we had already been in Iraq for more than a year, sir."

The Massachusetts senator disputed Wallace's description of McCain as his "first choice" for Defense, then ticked off the differences between McCain v.2004 and McCain v.2008:

"Let me be very clear about John McCain in 2004," Kerry said. "John McCain in 2004 was a Senator John McCain who had opposed the Bush tax cuts, who had indicated at that point in time a very different attitude on any number of subjects from global climate change to how you treat the powerful in Washington.

"Nomination John McCain is a different person. He is now supporting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He voted against the bankruptcy bill -- in other words -- I mean, for it. He took the position of the most powerful interests against the average American. He votes against the minimum wage, repeatedly again. ...

"Look, I think John McCain has taken positions in the course of trying to win the Republican nomination, whether it's the reversal and flip-flop on the intolerance with respect to Jerry Falwell and others, or whether it is the Bush tax cuts flip-flop, or whether it is this flip-flop now on the issue of Iraq, or whether it is, you know, global climate change, where he has not yet signed on to Joe Lieberman and John Warner's bill," said Kerry, who knows a thing or three about flip-flopping allegations from the GOP's attacks on him four years ago.

"There is a clear indication of a Nomination John McCain versus the Senator John McCain," Kerry said.

-- Leslie Hoffecker 

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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