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October 31, 2006

John Kerry says he flubbed his lines; meant no insult to troops

Posted by David Postman at 2:22 PM

Sen. John Kerry was in Seattle today holding an unannounced fundraiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell — just as he's in the national spotlight for comments he made in a speech that the White House says was insulting to U.S. troops.

Speaking in Los Angeles yesterday, Kerry said:

"You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Kerry says it was a joke gone bad. He was trying to make fun of President Bush's intellect and found himself in the middle of a controversy a week before the election.

At Huffington Post, Taylor Marsh says the line from Kerry's stump speech was supposed to go like this:

"I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

The White House, Republican Sen. John McCain and the American Legion all called on Kerry to apologize. The White House clearly wants to make Kerry's comments a campaign issue for Democratic candidates. Press Secretary Tony Snow said today:

What Senator Kerry ought to do first is apologize to the troops. The clear implication here is if you flunk out, if you don't study hard, if you don't do your homework, if you don't make an effort to be smart and you don't do well, you "get stuck in Iraq." But an extraordinary thing has happened since September 11th, which is a lot of people — America's finest — have willingly agreed to volunteer their services in a mission that they know is dangerous, but is also important. And Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives in this.

This is an absolute insult. And I'm a little astonished that he didn't figure it out already. I mean, you know, if I were Senator Kerry — I mean, you've seen me, I say something stupid, I apologize as quickly as possible. And this is something for which he ought to apologize. Meanwhile, it's probably reasonable to ask some of the Democrats — ask a Jim Webb or a Tammy Duckworth, both of whom are citing their military record — OK, what do you think about it, what do you think about this quote? Do you agree with him? He was your presidential nominee. And as for the notion that you can say this sort of thing about the troops and say you support them, it's interesting.

In Seattle, according to a transcript released by his Senate office, Kerry said:

"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 field an apology, it is the
president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the
Congress that has been willing to stamp — rubber-stamp 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
in America to 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
at which they have not told the American people the truth.
I'm not going to stand for it."

CNN is reporting that President Bush will also join in the criticism of Kerry.

"Even in the midst of a heated campaign season, there are still some things we should all be able to agree on, and one of the most important is that every one of our troops deserves our gratitude and respect," Bush will say in a speech, the text of which was released by the White House.

UPDATE: Here's the KING 5 video of Kerry's Seattle press conference.

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