Defending John Kerry (!!)

It’s no secret that I don’t like John Kerry. One of my greatest political regrets is that I voted for him in 2004; I should have cast a protest vote for the Libertarian or a write-in candidate. John Kerry didn’t deserve my vote. He’s a dishonest, weaselly scumbag who, in contrast to men of principle like Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold, will go wherever the political winds take him. Worst of all, his unprincipled nature applies just as much to issues of war and peace as it does to domestic issues. In his youth, Kerry may have been a principled anti-war radical, but it seems power has corrupted him and he has lost his way. As a senator with presidential ambitions, he has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to play cynical political games with regard to gravely important foreign-policy issues. He is the epitome of what Senator Lieberman was talking about when he said we ought not undermine presidential credibility in a time of war for petty partisan reasons — dissent is perfectly fine, indeed essential and patriotic, but only principled dissent, not cynical, politically motivated faux-dissent.

So, I think I’ve established my anti-Kerry bona fides. :) All that said, I find it very hard to believe that Kerry actually meant to insult the troops when he said:

“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.”

Kerry’s explanation is that the controversial comment was “a botched joke about the president and the president’s people, not about the troops.” In other words, it’s George W. Bush who didn’t “do [his] homework” and didn’t “make an effort to be smart,” and thus got himself, and the rest of of us, “stuck in Iraq.”

I believe Kerry’s explanation. I believe him not because he’s inherently trustworthy; certainly he’s not. But I believe him because it is by far the most objectively plausible explanation for his remarks.

As the senator said: “If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy.” He’s right. Whatever you think of Kerry’s politics — and I despise them — it just doesn’t add up that a combat veteran, who is by all accounts supportive of the troops, would say such a thing. It makes much more sense that his idiotic comment was indeed a “botched joke” at Bush’s expense.

Alas, while the Republican response has been predictably demagogic (Bush called Kerry’s comments “insulting and shameful“), Kerry has done himself no favors with his own response, in which he painted himself as a victim of “right wing nut-jobs” — rather than as a vicitm of his own poorly chosen words — and busted out the tired, irrelevant, logically fallacious “chickenhawk” meme. Instead of going into high dudgeon and defiantly declaring that “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy,” Kerry should have humbly apologized for choosing his words poorly in a way that caused some people to reasonably but falsely believe he was insulting the troops, and left it at that.

Now the conservative blogosphere is on fire, liberals are wringing their hands, the Republicans think they’ve been handed a gift that can turn the tide next Tuesday, and at least one Democratic congressman is understandably livid: “I guess Kerry wasn’t content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too.”

This is yet another example of a political kerfuffle where the response to the mistake is worse than the mistake itself. If Kerry had spared us the vitriolic bluster and just apologized for a poor choice of words — explaining that he absolutely, obviously never meant to insult the troops — this story might be dead by now. Instead, he’s given right-wing propagandists like Drudge a golden opportunity to run context-free headlines such as “I APOLOGIZE TO NO ONE,” implying that Kerry stands by an insult that he never intended to deliver. This is the very definition of an unforced error.

So, in conclusion, John Kerry is an idiot. But he doesn’t think our troops are idiots. I mean, c’mon. Like Bush, he’s stupid, not evil.

67 Responses to “Defending John Kerry (!!)”

  1. gahrie says:


    You are overlooking Kerry’s established pattern of behavior.

    He was calling our troops thugs, criminals and murderers in the 1970’s. He has never repudidated or apologised for these remarks, merely attempted to “explain” them.

    In 2005 he accused our troops of midnight raids designed to terrorize and victimize Iraqi civilians.

    He has actually made quite a career out of insulting and demeaning our troops.

  2. Toni says:

    Geesh …. Kerry is a disgrace for many reasons and if you believe his lame excuse great … but I do not think he deserves
    any support at all nor space on any blog let alone yours.

    He dug the hole, he is supposedly the great speaker let him dig his sorry ass out of this…

  3. Andrew says:

    I sort of believe Kerry, but one must first accept the presupposition that Kerry is continuing the oft-disproved meme that Bush skated through Yale and Harvard while his opponents had clearly superior academic histories. That’s not implausible, but it is rather curious that he’d again trot out this already exploded myth.

  4. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    Kerry may have meant it as a joke, but it came off as elitist, detached and played right into Karl Rove’s hands. Kerry should do himself and the Dems a favor and apologize ASAP and get this shit out of the way sooner rather than later.

  5. Joe Mama says:

    I was trying to imagine what joke Kerry meant to make and honestly couldn’t figure out that it might have been a shot at Bush until one of the Dem talking heads explained it that way on Hardball. It’s ABSOLUTELY believable that Kerry was criticizing the troops in Iraq — he’s accused them in the past of terrorizing innocent Iraqi women and children, and of course we don’t need to go into his infamous testimony before the Senate back in the 70’s when he accused the U.S. military “at all levels of command” of behaving like Genghis Kahn. No Brendan, Kerry’s explanation for his most recent foot-in-mouth episode is most certainly NOT “by far the most objectively plausible explanation.”

  6. Joe Mama says:

    Of course, Kerry’s explanation is certainly plausible, but I don’t think it’s by any means “the most plausible,” as evidenced by that fact that “he doth protest too much.”

  7. Andrew says:

    The trouble with John Kerry’s comment is that, while his defense is plausible, the way he said it is so damaging precisely because it does reflect a very common belief among liberals (and quite frankly, many other Americans who should also be ashamed). There is an all-too-common middle-class, elitist perception that the military is for kids who are not smart enough or moneyed enough to go to a four-year college. Hell, I sort of thought along those lines in my pre-9/11 days. It’s a despicable judgment nonetheless, and I hope this pilloring of Kerry (right or wrong in this instance) leads to a greater awareness that this perception is out there and needs to be strongly opposed.

  8. KC says:

    Yesterday the president stated “there’s too many philosophers in Washington”(
    Today he’s making the simple fallacy of “affirming the consequent.” “If x, then y” does not imply “if y, then x.” So when Kerry says, “If you don’t work hard, you’ll get stuck in Iraq,” this doesn’t mean “if you’re stuck in Iraq, you didn’t work hard.” Kerry doesn’t need to apologize to anyone because his statement doesn’t say anything about anyone currently stuck in Iraq.

  9. Joe Mama says:

    I agree, Andrew. The elitist perception you speak of had more factual underpinnings back in Kerry’s youth when college dropouts lost their deferments and were drafted, but that’s obviously not the case today.

  10. Lojo says:

    Brendan –

    Actually, after first reading and hearing it, I was willing to give Kerry a pass. I figured he misspoke or mis-stated what he meant and that was it.

    But his response to people who took what he said on its face was absurd.

    “If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy.�

    Correct me if wrong, but this shitbird already DID this in the past. And not too long ago, he mentioned our troops terrorizing Iraqi children. But even knowing these things, I was going to write this off as nothing but gaffe. But I can’t get past his attitude over this.

  11. Mark L says:

    Your defense of Kerry sounds like the type of grasping at straws that someone of someone who is trying to defend the absolute unseriousness of the 2006 Democratic Party.

    Then again, anyone who would vote straight ticket Democrat in 2006 is absolutely unserious anyway, and can be expected to defend absolute unseriousness, even if it involves grasping at straws.

  12. Toni says:

    For god sake… Bush graduated from college he was talking about kids…
    he thinks kids who do not go to vollege have no option but to go to war which is total BS and Kerry if a Fool

  13. Clyde says:

    I watched Kerry’s press conference this afternoon and my reaction was “What an arrogant prick!” I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling that way. Instead of apologizing to anyone offended by his clumsily-constructed comment, he just exacerbated the problem. And his sense of timing is exquisite, pulling this stunt a week before the election.

    Prediction: On November 8th, John Kerry will be as popular as a California arsonist during Santa Ana season.

  14. Brendan Loy says:

    Who said I’m voting “straight ticket Democrat in 2006”? My previous post on the topic of my planned vote indicated I hadn’t decided how to vote for U.S. Senate, and that remains true, but at the moment I am leaning toward voting for Lugar (R). As for the other races, you have no idea how I’m going to vote, as I haven’t revealed it here. So your assumption has no basis in reality.

  15. Jonesy says:

    John McCain was funny on Hannity and Colmes. He looked like he was a robot programmed with GOP talking points about Kerry’s remark. It seemed pretty obvious to me that he doesnt think Kerry meant the troops but instead was making a joke about Bush, thats obvious to me too. I do think Kerry needs to apologise though and explain himself better, tomorrow morning.

  16. gahrie says:


    For the sake of argument, let’s grant your point, and accept his excuse at face value.

    That still shows Kerry to be an ignorant putz, since Pres. Bush went to the same school he did, and got grades at least as good as he did.

    This whole “Bush is stupid” myth was debunked years ago, and Kerry knows it.

  17. Jazz says:

    I agree with Joe Mama that Kerry’s explanation is not necessarily the “most plausible”. Plausible, perhaps, but I wouldn’t say ‘most plausible’ based on his record.

    This is a guy, right, who burst on the national scene in the early 70s telling sordid tales of acts of atrocity by…his brothers in arms!…in congressional hearings, right?

    (As an aside, I always laughed at the Dem characterization of the Swifties as a “few disgruntled vets manipulated by the right wing lobbying machine”. Goodness, if you had been on a boat with Kerry, made it safely stateside, complete with all the PTSD that an 18-month tour in a guerilla war brings, and then this asshole fellow soldier is saying “I saw all this shit in Vietnam” on national tv, and you know that war is hell but you’re trying to rebuild your life back home, but you are tainted by association with this scumbag, as is everyone else you served with…you think you wouldn’t be a bit pissed at him?)

    It would not surprise me in the slightest if Kerry meant the fighting American soldiers in Fallujah. His acts in the early 70s would suggest that political opportunism is far far more important to him than personal honor. That’s probably true for most politicians, but Kerry is the prototype.

    One other: to Andrew’s comment about elitism and Joe Mama’s reply: I think there still is a heck of a lot of elitism with regard to enlisted men and women. In a nation like ours, a great land of opportunity, the military should serve as a chance for individuals to better themselves and improve their lot in our society.

    To a large extent that’s true. However, the incidence of mental illness and homelessness among vets is staggering in the US. War is hell, yes – but you don’t get the sense that we are motivated to “help out” those people willing to trade their physical and mental health for our nation’s interests – and a shot at a better life. Might just be my perception – I don’t have data. (I saw a report on the news the other day that a large number of families of soldiers deployed overseas are on food stamps. Maybe that’s inevitable. Does it bug us?)

  18. D Boyd says:

    I suspect it might grate but Bill O’Riley agrees with you.

  19. Texasyank says:

    Did Kerry mean to imply that servicemen and -women are undeducated people?


    But those are the words that came out of his mouth. And now he’s stuck with them. And the folks that have been stuck defending a certain President’s sentences are lined up around the block to take their shot. As they should. After a day of gleefully running foam-at-the-mouth e-mails from veterans with PhDs, veterans with MDs, veterans who were valedictorians in their college graduating class, veterans who left their law practice to enlist, current soldiers and sailors who fit the above categories, and parents of soldiers and sailors who fit the above categories–after a day of this, NRO’s The Corner has at least energized the base. Kerry has no one to blame but himself.

    What was revealed here was another instance of something far worse than malevolent convictions. What came out was of Kerry’s mouth was the robotic repeating of the loony left’s meme regarding military service. It is not enough for the Dem underground/Moveon/Rangel crowd to criticize the war in Iraq; it must (by way of raising the spectre of the draft) spout the “only poor/minority/undereducated kids are serving” line. And Kerry–who OF ALL PEOPLE knows this is not true, but further knows his only chance his pathetic (read: nonexistent) chances for the nomination reside in running to Hillary’s left and getting in bed with this bunch–repeats the meme in the most cynical manner. But being Kerry, the words come out in the clumsiest, most anti-Bill Clinton, “My favorite player is Manny Ortiz” fashion. And when he’s held to his own words, his first instinct is to say, “It’s everyone’s fault but mine.”

    So human. So Kerry.

    John Podhoretz put it best: Who needs the Swiftboats when Kerry swiftboats himself?

  20. Traveler says:

    “most objectively plausible”? In bold? A dubious conclusion, Brendan. It’s just hard to unwind the Bush joke out of that one.

    You are undoubtedly right that “he intended an insult to American troops” is an even more unlikely explanation, however.

    As other commenters have pointed out, your conclusion is perhaps distorted by the falsity of your stated assumption that Kerry is “by all accounts supportive of the troops.”

    Seems to me the most likely explanation is that this is John Kerry being John Kerry – he’s trying to balance what he wants to say with what he thinks his audience wants to hear; and so this comment is some unthinking (and thus, malice-free) combination of a commonly-spoken assumption among liberal elites, Kerry’s memory of the draft-and-exemption military of his service era, and a reasonable (in his and many liberal minds) answer to “what’s something really bad that could happen to you if you don’t have an education?”

    And the last part is true, for what it’s worth. If you don’t get a good education, you could find yourself in Iraq. The problem is that in today’s volunteer military, many people who get a great education will volunteer to serve in Iraq, and even more will contemplate it.

  21. Texasyank says:

    Yes–leave it to me, on this post, to misspell “undereducated.”

  22. NDLS2006 says:

    It’s worth pointing out that when John Kerry testified in those Congressional hearings, he was also calling himself a thug, a criminal, and a murderer. That he is now being called a “scumbag” and a “shitbag” for having actually served in Vietnam and testifying to his own activities and impressions on a war that almost everyone agrees was a major clusterfuck is a little sad. I guess the guys in Gunner Palace were right . . . people really *don’t* want to know what war is like. They just want people who aren’t them to go fight wars and come back and accept some faint “hero” praise and get on with their lives and not “disgrace” each other by telling the truth about what wars do to the people who actually fight them. My grandfather came back from WWII an alcoholic; his squadron captain had the guys pass around a bottle of whiskey a few times before they went on bombing runs. It kept them warm and kept their minds off the fact that they were killing people. The behavior stuck. People lambasted Michael Moore for the footage he used of soldiers in Iraq in Farenheit 9/11; they said he was trying to make them look like barbarians. I didn’t think so; I thought it was an insight into what happens to people, to boys, when they are trained to desensitize themselves to death and to maintain dedication to a hopeless and endless mission despite the devastating situation they live in every single day. And I say this as a person whose father’s reserve unit is being activated in January.

    Kerry said a really freaking stupid thing. It was poorly-thought-out. But I believe the explanation — it makes sense. He should have said “you end up getting the country stuck in Iraq” but he bumbled it. I voted for him too, and I’d do it again.

  23. Joe Mama says:

    I share your sentiments regarding vets, Jazz . . . they’re pretty much the only group I donate $ to regularly.

    And while Traveler may be right that “[i]f you don’t get a good education, you could find yourself in Iraq,” it’s equally true that people join the military–and possibly end up in Iraq–to get the gov’t to subsidize their education.

  24. Joe Mama says:

    Oh please, Kerry wasn’t called a “scumbagâ€? and a “shitbagâ€? for having served in Vietnam and testifying to his “own activities,” he was called those things for coming back and slandering his fellow military servicemen “at all levels of command” for committing atrocities comparable to “Genghis Kahn.” My father served in the military as well, wasn’t an alcoholic, and could barely keep himself from throwing up when Kerry said he was “reporting for duty” at the Democratic Nat’l Convention.

  25. Russ says:

    I agree that Kerry has too long a record insulting the troops to just write this off as a gaffe. Had this been the first time, then maybe. But not time after time after time. Trying to claim this was a “botched Bush joke” is spin. I’ve watched the whole speech and there is next to no way this was about Bush. What Kerry was doing was playing to the mindset of the local crowd, never figuring he would be caught on tape.

    In terms of political analysis, this has the potential to be devastating for the democrats. Off year elections are all about getting the base out, and this will re-energize the conservative base. Aside from this, it turns off independents who usually don’t vote in off year elections. They’ll just say, “Screw it. I’m gonna stay home.” That wouldn’t be as bad for democrats except that the GOP has a definite advantage in their GOTV operation.

    I remember how everyone thought the 2002 election was going to be big for the democrats, but gaffes like the pep rally at Paul Wellstone’s funeral helped cost them that election too. This could be the 2006 version of that.

  26. Jazz says:

    NDLS – I certainly agree with you that most of us want to outsource unpleasantry in life. However, I believe that tendency is tangential to Kerry’s staggering dishonor in testifying as he did in front of Congress.

    When you mentioned that people want to avoid unpleasantry, that made me think of one of my favorite books, Night by Elie Wiesel. At the outset of that unforgettable little book, Wiesel says he is writing it because there are things about the Holocaust that people just don’t know, things that they need to hear to fully understand the magnitude of the horror.

    In the last 30-40 pages of Night, Wiesel describes unbelievable sorrows at Auschwitz, including horrifying stories of once God-fearing but now-ravaged desperate residents turning on close family members, in one case a son killing his father for a crust of bread. Toward the very end of the book, Wiesel’s own father dies of dysentary, and it isn’t clear how much Wiesel was able to help him, if he even intended to.

    In my own travels, I have met many folks who have read Night, but it has been my impression that relatively few took away the point about the horrorifying spiritual state that the residents (such as the boy on the train) were reduced to. Its pretty plain in the book. But (in my experience) people tend not to internalize THAT part of it, perhaps it is something too awful to think about.

    So – sure, I agree that we don’t want to know about the gruesome horrors of war.

    HOWEVER (and here’s where Kerry is a scumbag, the following is a bit of a paraphrase of what Joe Mama said above):

    If Elie Wiesel is brave enough to tell his story, complete with the eventual degradation within his once-tightly knit community, than he deserves all the respect in the world for that, even if we don’t listen.

    However, if Wiesel (like millions of others survivors) prefers not to discuss his experiences publicly, but rather attempt to deal with them in a private manner, that is absolutely his right, and it would be incomprehensibly immoral for anyone to force someone such as Wiesel’s hand on such a decision.

    Effectively, by testifying in front of Congress, Kerry ‘forced the hands’ of the people that he served with. John Kerry, the captain of your swift boat, said he witnessed his men raping and killing innocent young girls, Ed? Was that you?

    Worst of all, Kerry arguably added nothing to the national consciousness other than some splatter fascination. We knew Vietnam was a shithole.

    Kerry made sure that his own band of brothers had nowhere to hide.

  27. dave marley says:

    it’s obvious when you see the video in context that he is NOT trying to denigrate the troops in any way, he just misspoke. brendan is right. you guys have your grudges against kerry, and that’s fine, but don’t dishonestly suggest he INTENDED to insult the troops when there is video which proves otherwise.

  28. Here’s something odd. Good ol’ Insty linked to the the Hotline Blog but doesn’t seem to have read everything they wrote:

    We believe that Kerry was referring to Bush because he’s used a similar formulation in our presence before and quite clearly meant to call Bush a dummy.

    Expect some partisan hacks to be forced to admit that they’ve intentionally misinterpreted what Kerry said. However, they’ll change it to be a new intentional misinterpretation: “you mean he was saying that only dummies can be president?”

    I saw this same type of crap in 2004. Perhaps if the GOP wants to win they could exert an equal amount of energy to something that isn’t quite possibly misleading and to something that actually matters. For instance, trying to call Democratic candidates on their immigration stances or explaining to voters why those stances are wrong. That’s, of course, difficult due to their fealty to Bush, but perhaps they should reassess their priorities.

  29. […] 1; Instapundit wrote today that John Kerry is the gift that keeps on giving. And this from Brendon Joy (also via Instapundit): This is yet another example of a political kerfuf […]

  30. sandyunderpants says:

    Ya know, John Kerry isn’t running for re-election, or jokeman of the year either. He meant that if you don’t study hard you might make a stupid decision like starting a war with Iraq.

    Although it’s also pretty obvious to anyone that if you have a brain in your head, you don’t end up in jury duty and you don’t end up fighting and dying in a hopeless, pointless, and endless war either.

  31. Jimmy says:

    The Dem’s weren’t going to win either the house or the senate anyhow despite the best attempts of the media to convince us it is so. Now they have an excuse and can ignore their total irrelevance as a political party for another election cycle and scapegoat Kerry. Kerry hates our military and he at best thinks our troops are stupid grunts. He has repeatedly called them murderers and terrorists. The reason this useless comment is so relevant is because most of the democratic leadership and the rabid left-wing base do believe this. “If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy.â€? The only reason he wouldn’t say it is because it would be political suicide. This was just a freudian slip and Kerry’s history as a leader backs this up.

    Throughout history no political party in the US has so utterly failed to win electoral victories during an 8 year span. During the mid-term elections in the second term of a president his party has always lost a large number of seats with one exception, Clinton, who managed to lose them 4 years earlier. The fact that we are not projecting a 60 seat swing in the house for democrats is a historical anomaly and points to the weakness of the Deomcratic party, not the unpopularity of the republican party which is a historical norm.

    I would point and laugh, but my only alternative to the republicans are the democrats and their troop denigrating leadership.

  32. Mike Roth says:

    I find it hilarious how the press and the Democrats and other defenders of John F. Kerry are finding excuse after excuse to explain the inexcusable put down of our servicemen. saying “your taking him out of context�, and “you need to see the whole speech to fully understand the context�. Yet none of them have given that same courtesy to Rush Limbaugh. This despite the fact that Limbaugh has posted on his website everything he has had to say about Michael Fox, nor has the liberal media stopped showing the edited and sped up video of Rush describing Michel Fox, nor explored that context.

  33. gahrie says:

    Although it’s also pretty obvious to anyone that if you have a brain in your head, you don’t end up in jury duty and you don’t end up fighting and dying in a hopeless, pointless, and endless war either.

    Wow, your patriotism and citizenship are simply astounding.

    It’s people like you that give the rest of us Americans a bad name. Wouldn’t you rather be Canadian you ungrateful freeloader?

  34. Judith says:

    Massachusetts native here. Kerry has a LONG history of contempt for our military. The most historic comments are there for everyone to read. His voting record is also there for anyone to read (don’t accept his word that he is for our military). When are the left going to quit with the childish arguments “everyone else was doing it…it was only a joke, why are you so sensitive, yada yada, yada.” At least make up a more fitting argument for your actions, stop insulting our intelligence!

  35. Rick says:

    Peoples’ intentions can only be judged by their words and actions. Kerry said what he said. He won’t take it back. Instead, he attacked his critics. Since you are a law student, go the law library sometime and read the standard jury instructions on intent.

    Your post cuts him too much slack. I am from the same generation as him. I know what he meant and how it interplays with the shift from a draft to an all volunteer army. He was commenting about the elitist perception of the typical volunteer enlisted person.

  36. Nikolay says:

    It’s ABSOLUTELY believable that Kerry was criticizing the troops in Iraq � he’s accused them in the past of terrorizing innocent Iraqi women and children, and of course we don’t need to go into his infamous testimony before the Senate back in the 70’s when he accused the U.S. military “at all levels of command� of behaving like Genghis Kahn.

    Kerry started his speech with Bush-bashing. The troop-bashing just doesn’t fit into the context of the speech. Why would he, in the middle of the rant about bad Republican policy, say that troops are stupid? It just wouldn’t add anything to the argument.

  37. Bandit says:

    ‘“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy.â€? He’s right. ‘

    2 words – bull and shit. I agree that maybe he wasn’t trying right then to denigrate the troops – he usually saves that for congressional testimony – but you’re just flat out making shit up that he wouldn’t and hasn’t done it before. And of course – he was just trying to put down the CIC because he’s stupid and everyone would understand it if they weren’t so stupid but he just misspoke, stupid. It’s so hard for Kerry to go thru this world oozing contempt for everyone who’s beneath him.

  38. I R A Darth Aggie says:

    Given that this is the United States of the Offended, Kerry should apologize to the members of the Armed Forces, as his “botched joke” can be taken more than one way, and the other way is offensive to those members.

  39. NDLS2006 says:

    Did he also vomit when GWB strutted out onto the flight deck of a carrier wearing a flight suit in front of a banner that said “Mission Accomplished”? Did he vomit when it suddenly occurred to Karl Rove that, indeed, nothing is accomplished and that banner was digitally edited out of the photos?

    We can dump on John Kerry all we want, but he went. Many have said that they distrust his “motives” for enlisting, but it’s not as though he was protected by some impenetrable forcefield of “I’m only doing this to bolster my future political career.” Lots of men who didn’t go (read: Bush, Cheney, and Rove) have had much to say about his activities there.

    Are we also going to direct the same comments at Pat Tillman’s brother, who has recently begun speaking out against the war in Iraq? What if he suggests that perhaps some of his comrades killed innocent people?

  40. pkahle says:

    I think the most interesting thing about all of this is how people’s perspectives work. I heard the statement, and heard the explanation, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how it was a joke. I really tried, but I didn’t get it until I read an explanation somewhere. But people who tend to agree with Kerry (and Brendan, apparently) got it immediately. I’ve seen the same thing happen the other way, too, where the right gets the joke and the left doesn’t. Think “Wither on the vine” (Gingrich, wasn’t it?).

    It really gives me pause, and makes me wonder how much closer the two sides might be, and how much more civil politics might be, if politics was talked about in half-hour segments, rather than 5-30 second sound bites.

    I’ll stop now, before this turns into a diatribe on how the blogs are going to save us from the sound bite media…

  41. Brendan Loy says:

    Lots of men who didn’t go (read: Bush, Cheney, and Rove) have had much to say about his activities there.

    Actually, I don’t believe any of those men have ever said anything negative about Kerry’s service in Vietnam. Now, you can claim that they were secretly behind the Swift Boat movement if you want, but I doubt you can prove it, so I’m not sure whether it’s accurate to claim that they “have had much to say” about Kerry’s service.

    Just saying.

  42. Brendan Loy says:

    *have ever said anything negative in public

    Obviously, neither of us knows what they’ve said in private. Unless you’re privy to some insider information that I’m not. :)

  43. Angrier and Angrier says:

    I don’t think this will have any impact on the election since most people are more fixated on the debacle in Iraq than anything Kerry or anyone else might say about the troops. That said, Kerry is not doing the Democrats any favors with his “joke.” The guy needs to apologize and get this off of the radar so the Dems can focus on things like Bush’s failures on pretty much every front and the Republican Congress’s consistent rubber-stamping of those failures.

  44. Joe Mama says:

    “The stereotype of the poor, dumb soldier is firmly entrenched among liberals of the Vietnam era. We often see it repeated by younger liberals today, even though the stereotype has no application whatever to our current volunteer army, which is demonstrably equal, at least, to the civilian population in talent and accomplishment.”

    “Why are liberals so determined to hang on to these discredited stereotypes of the past? I suspect it is because the young men and women who serve in the armed forces are a constant reproach to liberals’ facile, politically-motivated pronouncements on foreign policy. Iraq is a disaster (never mind that I voted for it)! But the young men and women who are stationed there don’t think so. They re-enlist in remarkable numbers; a large majority beieve in their mission; and they are working hard, risking their lives, and making considerable progress on many fronts. So it’s helpful for liberals to think: what do they know? They’re only soldiers–they must be dumb!”

  45. Joe Mama says:

    Kerry, Kerry, Quite Contrary
    By Jonah Goldberg

    Well, Sen. John Kerry certainly did his best to offer an October surprise for Republicans at the last minute.

    On Monday, Kerry was in California, stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. At an event at Pasadena City College intended to highlight Democratic education policies, Kerry told students, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.� But, he added, “If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.�

    The Internet lit up like a pinball machine. Sen. John McCain called on Kerry to apologize. Shortly thereafter the grand whirligig of the GOP message machine started churning, with denunciatory press releases from the usual suspects. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow asked the press to ask Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb of Virginia � a veteran and the father of a soldier in Iraq � if he agreed with Kerry’s comments.

    In response, Kerry issued a splenetic statement: “I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium. … It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have. … Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men.â€?

    This raises an interesting question: Can a typed diatribe still be spittle-flecked?

    Later, Kerry did find a podium in Seattle and more or less read the same statement for the cameras.

    Presumably, Kerry doesn’t believe that McCain is either a stuffed-suit Republican hack or a cowardly service-slacking liar. Nor should it matter. Either what Kerry said was wrong or it wasn’t. Neither his service nor his critics’ lack thereof changes the meaning of what Kerry said.

    But what did he say? Kerry insists he was making a joke about President Bush, not a joke about students who aren’t smart enough to do better than the military. While there’s virtually nothing in the text or video of his remarks to lend support for this, save for a wan smile he offered to the mute audience, it’s possible that was his intent. After all, Kerry is an awful politician, a human toothache with the charisma of a 19th-century Oxford Latin tutor. One can’t rule out the possibility that he simply
    botched a joke.

    If it was a joke, it was a pretty bad one, even for him. First, Bush got better grades than Kerry at Yale. More relevant, if launching the Iraq war is a sign of stupidity and a failure to do one’s homework, Kerry should avoid calling attention to the fact that he voted to approve it and defended that vote throughout his 2004 presidential campaign.

    But whether or not it was a joke, it certainly sounded like Kerry was talking about the troops, because that’s the way Kerry talks about everything. Kerry’s a bit like one of those cavemen from the Geico commercials, only he’s a throwback to a slightly more recent era: Vietnam.

    All of his ideas were formed from his experience as an anti-Vietnam crusader. He may have run as a born-again war hero in 2004, but his political career was founded on his activism against a war he repeatedly labeled a crime.

    That’s why few gave Kerry the benefit of the doubt. The idea that the military is the last refuge for the lumpen-proletariat is a Vietnam-era chestnut that continues to pop up in liberal talking points. It wasn’t very accurate during Vietnam, and it’s even less so now. A timely study of the demographics of enlistees in our all-volunteer military found that the share of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods has declined steadily since 1999 and throughout the war. Moreover, “U.S. military enlistees are better educated, wealthier, and more rural on average than their civilian peers.�

    Kerry thinks it’s unfair for Republicans to seize on his comments, and to an extent he’s right. He obviously didn’t intend to insult America’s servicemen and women. But Kerry fails to understand that he � like so many fossils of his generation in the Democratic party � sounds like he’s frozen in the past. The Democratic position on Iraq is that it’s Vietnam all over again, and the only time Kerry ever seems sure of himself is when he’s reprising his anti-Vietnam schtick.

    Sure, Republicans are seizing on his comments with the same opportunistic zeal Democrats displayed when they recently tried to paint the GOP as soft on sexual predation on congressional pages. But Kerry � like much of his party � seems determined to lend plausibility to such criticisms.

  46. Richie Rich says:

    John Kerry sucks.

  47. FzxGkJssFrk says:

    Brendan – I agree with you about the plausibility argument. But as other commenters have said, Kerry has a well-documented history of disdain for American soldiers despite his veteran status. I think it was a Freudian slip, but a slip nonetheless.

  48. Aaron says:

    John derbyshire is really laying into his fellows at The Corner this morning. He sees Kerry’s remark for what it was, “a dumb joke badly delivered,” but he hardly stops there.

    first, “There’s a lot of fake outrage going round here.”

    later, “if you can’t handle the truth, that’s your problem.”

    and finally, “If you’re all going to go nuts here, I’m off to do a little shopping.”

    Fun for all ages.

  49. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Okay. This is actually pretty funny…

  50. Joe Mama says:

    Thanks, Aaron. One of the things I like about The Corner is that they’re not all in lock-step, and Derb is often the contrarian in their midst. Jay Nordlinger evidently agrees with him, but clearly most at NRO don’t agree with Derb that Kerry’s explanation was the “obvious” one. Karen Tumulty at Time Magazine also seems to agree that Kerry insulted the troops.

    But perhaps the best insights come from Victor David Hanson:

    “Kerry surely must be one of the saddest Democratic liabilities around. Some afterthoughts about his latest gaffe, which is one of those rare glimpses into an entire troubled ideology:

    (1) How could John Kerry, born into privilege, and then marrying and divorcing and marrying out of and back into greater inherited wealth, lecture anyone at a city college about the ingredients for success in America? If he were to give personal advice about making it, it would have to be to marry rich women. Nothing he has accomplished as a senator or candidate reveals either much natural intelligence or singular education. Today, Democrats must be wondering why they have embraced an overrated empty suit, and ostracized a real talent like Joe Lieberman.

    (2) How could Kerry possibly claim that he was thinking of the uneducated in the context of George Bush, who, after all, went to Harvard and Yale?

    (3) Some of the brightest and most educated Americans are not only in the military, but veterans of Iraq. Two of the best educated minds I have met-Col. Bill Hix and Lt. Col. Chris Gibson, both Hoover Security Fellows-were both Iraqi veterans. What is striking about visiting Iraq is the wealth of talent there, from privates to generals. Without being gratuitously cruel, the problem of mediocrity is not in the ranks of the military, but on our university campuses, where half-educated professors and non-serious students killing time are ubiquitous. Personally, I’d wager the intelligence of a Marine Corps private any day over the average D.C. journalist. Every naval officer I met at the USNA, without exception, seemed brighter than John Kerry, whose “brilliance”, after all, has managed to offend millions of voters on the eve of a pivotal election. If the Democrats lose, it will be almost painful to watch the recriminations against Kerry fly.

    (4) This is not the first, but third, time he has denigrated soldiers in the middle of a war-and there is a systematic theme: John Kerry’s assumed superior morality allows him to pass judgment from on high about supposedly lesser folk who become tools of a suspect military: thus we go from limb-loppers and Genghis’ hordes to terrorists to dead-beats. The only constant is that the haughtiness is always delivered in the same sanctimonious, self-righteous, and patronizing tone.

    (5) The mea culpa that Democrats are blaming the war and not the warriors is laughable after Sens. Durbin, Kennedy, and Kerry have collectively compared American soldiers to Nazis, Pol Pot’s killers, Stalinists, terrorists, and Baathists.

    (6) The problem is that Kerry is not just a senator, but the most recent presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, and thus in some sense, especially given the diminution of Howard Dean, the megaphone of the entire party.

    (7) His pathetic clarification, as he blamed everyone from Tony Snow to Rush Limbaugh, displayed the same Al Gore derangement syndrome, and thus raises a larger question: what is it about George Bush that seems to reduce once sober and experienced liberal pros to infantile ranting?

    (8) And why is the supposedly lame Bush so careful in speech, and the self-acclaimed geniuses like a Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, or Howard Dean serially spouting ever more stupidities? For all the Democrats’ criticism of George Bush, I can’t think of a modern President who has so infrequently put his foot in his public mouth, and, by the same token, can’t think of any opposition that on the eve of elections seems to have an almost pathological death wish.

    The Democrats should use this occasion to have an autopsy of Kerryism, or this strange new tony liberalism, that has turned noblisse oblige on its head. It used to be that millionaire FDRs and JFKs felt sympathy for those of the lower classes and wished to ensure that the hoi polloi had some shot at the American dream. But today’s elite liberals-a Howard Dean, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, George Soros, Ted Turner-love the high life and playact at being leftists simply because they are already insulated from the effects of their own nostrums that always come at someone poorer’s expense while providing them some sort of psychological relief from guilt. Poor Harry Truman must be turning over in his grave-from bourbon, cigars, and poker to wind-surfing and L.L. Bean costume of the day says it all.”

    I might quibble with VDH’s last point – Bush isn’t necessarily “careful in speech,” at least not in the grammatical sense. But I take VDH to mean that in speaking Bush may err in form (e.g., “is our children learning,” “strategery,” “misunderestimated,” etc.) but not in substance.

  51. A Nun Mouse says:

    Kerry had prepared remarks that were passed out to the media before the event. Kerry pretty much followed the remarks except for the passage in question. He mangled the joke.

    It’s the liberal media at work again. You know how those liberals are….They cannot never get the story of fellow liberals right. Funny how that works….

  52. Strabo says:

    He should 1st admit he’s stupid, has a drinking problem and never really touched that page…

    Next Politician Please, keep the line moving.

  53. Joe T says:

    Kerry meant exactly what he said, but didn’t exactly mean to say it out loud. It’s that simple.

  54. Joe Mama says:

    “It’s the liberal media at work again. You know how those liberals are….They cannot never get the story of fellow liberals right. Funny how that works….”

    Heh. You have to have an especially bad case of cranial rectitis to think that the MSM media doesn’t lean left, or worse, actually leans RIGHT (as some pinheads seem to believe). I hate to rain on your parade, Mouse, but some have duly noted the MSM’s read on this story:

    “For the most part, the mainstream media (newspapers, anyway) are resolutely refusing to be thrown off message by John Kerry’s series of gaffes. The New York Times, for example, headlines ‘As Vote Nears, Stances on War Set Off Sparks.’ The Times leads not with Kerry’s statement, but with President Bush’s criticism of it, and frames the story as being primarily about the President and the war. You have to read deep into the Times’s article to discover what it was that Bush criticized.

    “The Washington Post buried the story on page A8. It, too, framed the story as being mainly about the President; its headline is ‘Bush Calls Kerry Remarks Insulting to U.S. Troops’. In the Post, at least you don’t have to read to the end of the story to find out what ‘Kerry’s remarks’ were. But both papers spend more space on the unpopularity of the war and on how well Democrats are doing this election cycle than on Kerry’s gaffe and the outrage it has provoked.

    “The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s coverage is more straightforward; it recounts Kerry’s comment and the reaction to it without surrounding the story with spin. But the Strib buries its one paragraph of coverage deep inside the paper, as the lead item in a column titled ‘Iraq Developments.’

    “The liberal press has a story line for this election, and John Kerry’s exposing how the left really feels about the military isn’t it. This story illustrates, I think, the rift between this country’s two media cultures.”

  55. Jazz says:

    Compared with John Kerry, Jimmy Carter looks like Winston Churchill.

  56. Angrier and Angrier says:

    I believe Kerry fucked up on a badly conceived joke. It doesn’t mean that the way he told the joke didn’t offend some people. He should apologize and get this over with.

    On the other hand, at least people are focusing on Iraq again. Maybe some good will come out of this mess.

  57. A Nun Mouse says:

    All you have to do is WATCH the cable news shows. They’re ALL in a twitter over Kerry’s botched joke. (And that’s all it was, a botched joke.)

    This is receiving so much attention it’s hillarious.

    On MSNBC, Scarborough was asking Monica Crowley and Pat Buchannan about this gaff. Note the wide range of political opinions: a right wing talking head and Pat Buchannan.

    Of course, Buchannan chimes in “Why does this party always hate the military?” Yet he leaves aside FDR and WW 2 and Kennedy and Johnson invading Vietnam; it’s funny how those Democrats just hate the military so much yet they use it all the time.

    Crowley and Buchannan both thought this was going to tip some major political races. I mean what bullshit.

    And this was on MSNBC. The same kind of crap was on FOX and to some extent on CNN.

    And it’s covered by all the major newspapers. WaPo was the only one of the major dailies to not have it on the frontpage. (Why? Because they’re just RAGINGLY liberal? No. It’s because it isn’t a NEWS WORTHY STORY.)

    I mean please, if this single act is all it takes to tilt the election– after FOLEY, IRAQ, ECONOMY, etc., etc.– a single botched joke by Kerry that is being covered by all the major media outlets over and over today, — AND being covered as if there is some real evidence to back up the claim that Kerry ws insulting the whole US military at a nationally covered event– somebody seriously wants to tell me the media is LIBERAL??

    Get back on your medication, son.

    A Liberal media is going nuts over this story so they can ruin the perfect liberal tidal wave election? Anyone who believes this needs meds AND shock therapy. Total dumbasses.

  58. Sandyunderpants says:

    gahrie, I’m an ungrateful freeloader? What the hell have you done to pay your dues to live in this country? I love the typical cowards (read: Every republican except John McCain (who republicans consider a democrt)) uses OUR military as a prop to use as a backdrop for speeches and to claim they support while in reality doing nothing to help or aid them. George Bush’s administration has spent 500 billion American tax payer dollars (yours and mine) on this human travesty and HALF of that money has gone to private corporations like (gasp) Halliburton, Becthel, Worldcom, etc. NOT “the troops”. So yeah, you DO have to be an idiot to go and fight for a war that means nothing. In 2003 I felt bad about young people being sent to the Middle East for what I knew would be a debacle, because they signed up for military service, not a mercenary army. Now, I don’t feel bad about them getting blown to pieces because the dummies should know better today, and they have a choice of whether to go or to stand up for what’s right and not go. And if they choose to go and die for nothing, America is better of without them. So long dummies.

    But one thing I know is that no fake flag waving republican on this blog is going to pick up a gun and fight for this country, because the color code for Republicans isn’t red, it’s yellow.

  59. Joe Mama says:

    “Compared with John Kerry, Jimmy Carter looks like Winston Churchill.”

    And compared to Mouse and Sandyunderpants, A&A looks like Brendan Loy :-)

  60. gahrie says:

    gahrie, I’m an ungrateful freeloader? What the hell have you done to pay your dues to live in this country?

    1) While I am not a veteran, my father is , and I was raised a military brat, of an enlisted man. We lived overseas for much of my life, and my family had to make many sacrifices.

    2) I regularly serve on juries, as do the rest of my family.

    3) I have run for political office.

    4) I refuse to denigrate those who fulfill their obligations as citizens, you worthless snob. You aren’t worth the toe jam between a real American’s toes. You’re a leech, and not even a well-mannered leech.

  61. sandyunderpants says:

    A leech? Of what? You paid your dues by watching your dad serve in the military and you do jury duty, and you ran for VP of your gradeschool. I really don’t think that qualifies you as “not a leech”.

    If anyone wants to know what freedom is they will travel outside the united states. There’s a reason real “Free” countries don’t spend the majority of their federal budget on weapons and bombs, while not living in fear of an attack, and there’s a reason so many people in foreign countries hate America so much, and it’s not because of John Kerry, liberals, or our “Freedom”. Being a military brat as you claim to be, would make me think you’ve actually seen the world. Now get off the base and experience a few different cultures. But then again asking someone with a closed mind to try opening their eyes, is an impossible task, so forget about it.

  62. gahrie says:


    1) You are an ass.
    2)I ran for City Council of a city of 200,000 people.
    3) I spent nine of my first 18 years living overseas. I travelled widely, and spent most of my time living in small villages in the countryside. Where are these “free” countries you speak of? Because if they are in Europe:
    A) Most European countries suck
    B)They don’t fear an attack, or spend money on defense because we do it for them. In other words they are ill-mannered leeches just like you.

  63. Mark says:

    John Kerry just keeps on talking out of both sides of his mouth to anyone who will listen. Once again he has insulted Americans who are overseas just following orders. I hope every American who has a family member in the military or retired from the military uses their vote to get this man out of office permanently.

  64. Sandyunderpants says:

    Mark, John Kerry is not running. And he hates the troops so much he joined the army during vietnam and has shrapnel in his body today just so he could go over there and tell the troops to their faces how much he hates them.

    Gahrie, all your failures put together still don’t prove that you are any better than a “leech”. I’d say accomplishments, but apparently you have none, which is probably why you have to build yourself up through the sacrifices of others.

    Equating America with “freedom” was great when the world was under a threat of Militant Communism, now that “freedom” line is just a bunch of bunk. Go to Thailand or Amsterdam and you’ll see freedoms you save up for bus-fare to vegas to enjoy.

    As far as living in freedom– Try Greece, Italy, Canada, Ambergriss in Belize, Monaco, switzerland, or the South of France for a no-worries “free” lifestyle. Americans can spend the majority of their federal money on their military, while the rest of the country slowly goes down the tubes due to neglect.

  65. gahrie says:

    1) I’d rather be a “failure” than a defeatist leech. What exactly have you contributed to this country, since you are obviously not “dumb” enough to serve it militarily, civilly, or politically? What are your sacrifices, since those of me and my family aren’t good enough?

    2)Holding up Amesterdam and Thailand as examples of freedom is exactly what I would expect from a useless leftie. Have you been to either place? They are both shitholes populated by prostitutes, crime and drugs.

    3)You do realize that of all your examples of the “free” lifestyle, the only one not propped up by American money is Switerland, and it is propped up the world’s money.

    Your answers tell your sad story far better than my responses to you ever could.

  66. Skip Dunn says:

    You gotta be kidding me! Bush is not a high school drop out. Kerry meant what he said. He is just a dumb Lib-RAT.
    But he has a point. If you can get brain washed in a liberal university, you will not avoid going to Iraq but you can wait
    in airports to spit on soldiers who are coming back from Iraq. The only reason a weasel like Kerry will join the military is
    for self promotion as John Kerry himself did.
    If you are smart, you get a fairly safe assignment, take your camera with you, film your exploits, claim phony purple hearts, come home and declare yourself to be a war hero, smear all others who are still fighting a war, conspire with the enemy and so on…