In an October 17 column highlighting memorable moments in this year's three presidential debates, New York Times "Political Points" columnist John Tierney described Senator John Kerry's "global test" statement during the first debate as a "gift" to President George W. Bush that Bush "promptly seized on and never let go."
But Kerry's statement regarding the need to prove that a preemptive strike was undertaken for legitimate reasons constituted a "gift" to the president only because he was willing to distort what Kerry said. And Bush's distortion succeeded -- several members of the media repeated his mischaracterization of Kerry's statement, as Media Matters for America noted here and here.
Here's what Kerry said during the September 30 presidential debate:
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim [Lehrer, the debate moderator], you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
But on October 2, Bush told the National Association of Home Builders that Kerry "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions."
As is clear from the above quote, Kerry said nothing of the sort. Kerry asserted that he would never cede "the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect" this country. What he would do is what prudent presidents of every political stripe have always done: ensure that his fellow citizens, as well as U.S. allies -- essential to the maintenance of stability and peace in the world -- accept that the president took legitimate preemptive action.