Okay. I Believe John Kerry Meant it as a Joke. So Why Didn’t He Apologize? *(updated)

kerry-plays-soccer.jpgI don’t get John Kerry — and even though I voted for the guy, I never really did get him. My theory on Kerry, which always riled my mother to no end, was that he was burdened by the appearance of being a highly intelligent man, when in fact he is just average. If he looked like, say, me, for example, he would have gone into a line of work more commensurate with his abilities. That world-bearing gravitas…isn’t that the kind of wise leader we need for our troubled times? So his face seems to say.

His face lies. With the best chance of beating an incumbent president since 1968 (I think Clinton bucked the odds in ’92 by beating Bush, aided heavily by the presence of Ross Perot on the ballot), Kerry managed to blow the 2004 presidential election. I don’t think it was a sudden outbreak of love for W. I think a lot of fence-sitters at the end were turned off by Kerry, and stuck with the devil they knew. He just didn’t seem very smart, after all.

So last night in Pasadena, Kerry made his famous comment to the students at the City College, saying, We’re here to talk about education, but I want to say something before, you know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Unbelievable. Even if this was how he really felt — and the sentiment did seem to fit what we know about this pompous preppy — it seemed impossible that he would actually say it.

So — it was a gaffe, right? He meant to make a joke about the “dumb” Bush getting us stuck in Iraq, and it came out wrong. To stop the bleeding, here’s the PR 101: Apologize. Right away. Say he realizes what he said might have been taken as an insult by our servicemen and women in Iraq. He didn’t mean to suggest they all got there because they screwed up in school. Mea culpa.

But no. Here‘s what he actually said today about the mess he made:

Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how. I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp — rubberstamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families.

My statement yesterday — and the White House knows this full well — was a botched joke about the president and the president’s people, not about the troops. The White House’s attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe. It’s a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything America, the raw politics. It’s their willingness to distort, their willingness to mislead Americans, their willingness to exploit the troops as they have so many times at backdrops, at so many speeches in which they have not told the American people the truth.

I’m not going to stand for it. What our troops deserve is a winning strategy, and what they deserve is leadership that is up to the sacrifice that they’re making. Sadly, this is the best that this administration can do in a month when we have lost 100 young men and women who have given their lives for a failed policy. Over half the names on the Vietnam wall were put there after our leaders knew that our policy was wrong, and it was wrong that leaders were quiet then, and I’m not going to be quiet now. This is a textbook Republican campaign strategy: try to change the topic, try to make someone else the issue, try to make something else said the issue, not the policy, not their responsibility.

Well, everybody knows it’s not working this time, and I’m not going to stand around and let it work.

If anyone thinks that a veteran, someone like me, who’s been fighting my entire career to provide for veterans, to fight for their benefits, to help honor what their service is — if anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq, and not the president and his people who put them there, they’re crazy. It’s just wrong.

This is a classic GOP textbook Republican campaign tactic. I’m sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes.

I’m sick and tired of a whole bunch of Republican attacks, the most of which come from people who never wore the uniform and never had the courage to stand up and go to war themselves.

Enough is enough. We’re not going to stand for this.

This policy is broken, and this president and his administration didn’t do their homework. They didn’t study what would happen in Iraq. They didn’t study and listen to the people who were the experts and would have told them. And they know that’s what I was talking about yesterday. I’m not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who’s taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who’s now going to try to attack me and lie about me and distort me. No way. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, are willing to lie about those who did. It’s over.

This administration has given us a Katrina foreign policy: mistake upon mistake upon mistake, unwilling to give our troops the armor that they need, unwilling to have enough troops in place, unwilling to give them the humvees that they deserve to protect them, unwilling to have a coalition that is adequate to be able to defend our interests.

Our own intelligence agency has told us they’re creating more terrorists, not less; they’re making us less safe, not more. I think Americans are sick and tired of this game.

These Republicans are afraid to stand up and debate a real veteran on this topic, and they’re afraid to debate — you know, they want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men.

Well, we’re going to have a real debate in this country about this policy. The bottom line is, these Republicans want to distort this policy. And this time it won’t work, because we are going to stay in their face with the truth. And no Democrat is going to be bullied by these people, by these kinds of attacks that have no place in American politics. It’s time to set our policy correct.

They have a stand still and lose policy in Iraq, and they have a cut and run policy in Afghanistan. And the fact is our troops, who have served heroically, who deserve better, deserve leadership that is up to their sacrifice, period.

Q Senator, John McCain said that you owe an apology to many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq who answered their country’s call because they are patriots. Should those people who didn’t get your joke, who may have misinterpreted you as saying the undereducated are cannon fodder — what do you say to them?

KERRY: Never said that. And John McCain knows I’ve never said that, and John McCain knows I wouldn’t say that. And John McCain ought to ask for an apology from Donald Rumsfeld for making the mistakes he’s made. John McCain ought to ask for an apology from this administration for not sending in enough troops. He ought to ask for an apology for putting our troops on the line with a policy that doesn’t have an adequate coalition, that doesn’t have adequate diplomacy, where we don’t have a strategy to win.

And what we need is to debate the real issues, not these phony, sideline issues that are part of the politics. Americans are tired — sick and tired of this kind of politics. They know my true feelings. They know I fought to provide additional money for veterans. They know I fought to provide money for combat — for veterans. They know I fought to put money for VA. They know I’ve honored those veterans. They know that this is the finest military — and I’ve said it a hundred thousand times — that we’ve ever had. They know precisely what I was saying, and they’re trying to turn this, because they have a bankrupt policy and they can’t defend it to the nation and they can’t defend it to the world, and I’m not going to stand for this anymore, period. That’s the apology that people ought to get.

Q Do you need to go to joke school?

KERRY: Sure. Q It sounds like you regret saying those remarks. And what were you trying to say?

KERRY: Very simple, that they — that those who didn’t study it properly, those who made the decisions, they got us into Iraq, very simple. And the fact is they know that. The administration knows that. And they’re simply trying to distort this. They’re trying to play a game, and again, I’m not going to stand for it. This is the kind of thing that makes Americans sick. People know.

And there ought to be some level of honor and trust in this process. You know, I have fought a lifetime on behalf of veterans, and we have the finest young men and women serving us in the United States military that we’ve ever had. And I’m proud of that. But this administration has let them down, and that was clearly in a remark directed at this administration. They understand it, they want to distort it. It’s a classic Republican playbook. They want to change the topic. We’re not going to let them change the topic. The topic is their failed policy in Iraq. The topic is that they don’t have a strategy; they don’t have a way to be able to win.

You got Dick Cheney saying everything’s just terrific in Iraq only a week ago. John McCain ought to ask for an apology from Dick Cheney for misleading America. He ought to ask for an apology from the president for lying about the nuclear program in Africa. He ought to ask for an apology for once again a week ago referring to al Qaeda as being the central problem in Iraq when al Qaeda is not the central problem.

Enough is enough! I’m not going to stand for these people trying to shift the topic and make it politics. America deserves a real discussion about real policy, and that’s what this election is going to be about next Tuesday.

Q Senator —

KERRY: One more question, and then, I got to run.

Q (Off mike) —

KERRY: Let me tell you something, I’m not going to give them one ounce of daylight to spread one of their lies and to play this game ever, ever again. That is a lesson I learned deep and hard, and I’ll tell you, I will stand up anywhere across this country and take these guys on. This is dishonoring not just the troops themselves by pointing the finger at the troops, it’s abusing the troops. They’re using the troops. They’re trying to make the troops into the target here. I didn’t do that, and they know that. And for them to suggest that somebody who served their country as I did and has a record like I have in the United States Congress of standing up and fighting for the troops would ever, every insult the troops is an insult in and of itself. And they owe us an apology for even daring to use the White House to stand up and make this an issue again. Shame on them. Shame on them. And may the American people take that shame to the polls with them next Tuesday.

Thank you, all.

Wow. Just terrible. He thinks it’s 2004, and the Swift Boat guys are after him again. Only this time, he’s going to man up, and confront those bastards. Isn’t that what he’s thinking? Sure seems like it. Except the hard-nose, not-backin’-down rhetoric is all wrong for the event that prompted it. Everyone knows he hates Bush, disagrees with the Republicans — nothing new there. But it’s the soldiers in Iraq who needed to hear from him, not political reporters! Bush wasn’t offended — the troops and their families were (presumably).

Now he’s guaranteed a fire-storm. Democratic candidates will get drawn into it, their GOP opponents “demanding” they renounce the party’s 2004 standard-bearer. Commercials are being cut now. The Democrats don’t get it, the Democrats disrespect the troops, the Vietnam syndrome lives. Blah blah blah. Count on it.

I was thinking this weekend that the Democrats had finally gotten it together, and were about to win this mid-term election with a margin to spare in the House, and perhaps squeak by in the Senate, developments I welcomed as exceedingly healthy for both the nation and the party. But now, this colossal narcissist John Kerry, who shouldn’t even be out in public… Well, we’ll see how it turns out.

My stomach’s in knots. We did not need this.

*Update, 11/1/06:  As expected, Kerry has retracted his pledge to “apologize to no one.”  He has apologized to anyone who “misinterpreted” his remarks:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. John Kerry apologized Wednesday for a “poorly stated joke,” which the Massachusetts senator says was aimed at the president but was widely perceived as a slam on U.S. troops.

“I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended,” he said in a written statement.

“As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: My poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and [was] never intended to refer to any troop,” he said.

Not to be a grammar Bushitler, but:

Coming from such a highly educated man, I’m surprised this statement’s double-negative got through.  If Kerry’s words were “misinterpreted to wrongly imply” something, doesn’t that mean the opposite of “interpreted to wrongly imply,” and also the opposite of “misinterpreted to imply?”  If you misintepret something to wrongly imply something else, the two negatives cancel each other out, so you’re left with a statement correctly “interpreted to imply….” Which is what we were saying all along — he insulted the troops.

Maybe Kerry didn’t study hard enough.

4 thoughts on “Okay. I Believe John Kerry Meant it as a Joke. So Why Didn’t He Apologize? *(updated)

  1. I am a vet . I was at Walter Reed Army Hospital when the War started. Many soldiers feel like the US has turned there back on them. I mean come on .Everyone with common sense knows what Kerry meant. The fact is Kerry meant the Bush Admistration didnt study Iraq and know we are stuck because of lack of education.Because of them we put all our troops in Iraq and not Afgan which had the terror cells . Guess what we are in the middle of a cival war in Iraq.

  2. John Kerry is “stuck on Vietnam” and the 60’s -where if you didn’t go to college and make your grades, you got drafted. I think this explanation fits Kerry’s words better than simply “a quip gone awry” that was meant for Bush.

    Kerry has a rich and proud history of trashing the American soldier.

  3. The two comments above are in complete disagreement, but the cure is the same either way. “I apologize to the patriotic American servicemen and women for a mis-statement that I made that has been interpreted as an insult to their intelligence. I didn’t mean it, and I don’t believe that to be true. I was trying to make a joke, and stumbled over the words. To all those who were offended, I humbly ask your forgiveness.”

    Dr. F – Kerry can say this without giving one inch to Bush on Iraq. Bush is not asking for an apology — to him.

    Malott – Kerry has a rich and proud history of being the most selfish and narcissistic of all politicians, and that’s saying something. I’m not convinced, however, that it was a deliberate jab at the American soldier. But no matter. His words demand an apology, not the indecipherable intent behind them.

  4. Kerry is also going to his 2004 playbook by demonizing the Bush Admin and Republicans as the attack-dog mongrels who spew evil hate speech: “And I’m not gonna stand for it!”

    This stuff is tired and old…and now, clearly transparent. Before, you could say, well, the Republicans sure are pretty tough on Dear Kerry. He has a point. But in this case, he put his OWN foot in his mouth and yet he STILL goes after the “attack dogs.” Sheesh, they’d be dumb not to use his gaffe, especially since they’re scratching for some momentum anyway.

    We’ll see, but this thread could start to unravel the Democrats, right before the election, if their whole “attack dog” critique starts to look transparently tactical as well. The careful artifice will fall. But, it seems like most Democrats have denounced or smartly distanced themselves from him. Haven’t read the Bushitler blogs, though.

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