I found the whole thing fascinating.
Here's the thing. Kerry said what he said. If you want my best academic (as objective as possible) evaluation of the line, it's sufficiently ambiguous (if isolated from the past) to allow Kerry to claim "botched joke" rather than intentional slight of the men and women in uniform. That's his story, and he's sticking with it.
However the statement isn't made in isolation. These are Kerry quotes from the past. This is part of his 1971 testimony to Congress about fellow Vietnam soldiers.
I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.
It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
That testimony came back to haunt an older, wiser John Kerry who represented himself as a war hero in a subequent presidential election.
Would that comment allow someone to view yesterday's quip with a biased eye? Certainly it's human nature partially to judge someone based upon their past. And as a professional mathematical model builder, there's statistical proof that the future can be predicted from the past with some (but not perfect) degree of certainty. That's why employers use references in job interviews.
Unfortunately for Senator Kerry, this is a recent quote of his concerning service men and women in Iraq. This is a December 5th, 2005 interview with Bob Schieffer.
Let me--I--first of all, there is so much more that unites Democrats than divides us. And Democrats have much more in common with each other than they do with George Bush's policy right now. Now Joe Lieberman, I believe, also voted for the resolution which said the president needs to make more clear what he's doing and set out benchmarks, and that the policy hasn't been working. We all believe him when you say, `Stay the course.' That's the president's policy, which hasn't been changing, which is a policy of failure. I don't agree with that. But I think what we need to do is recognize what we all agree on, which is you've got to begin to set benchmarks for accomplishment. You've got to begin to transfer authority to the Iraqis. And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not...
Then let's analyze what Senator Kerry said.
You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.
When the firestorm started, Senator Kerry called his statement a "botched joke" and claimed he was referring to George Bush. There are two problems with this. First, there is his history of disparaging remarks of service men and women (quoted above). Second, George Bush got an undergrad degree from Yale (not too shabby, even if he drank his way through 4 years), and an MBA from Harvard (the program is ranked #1 in the country by US News and World Report).
But still... One could maybe kind of sort of believe it was a "botched joke" due to "Bush-isms." GW is a very intelligent man, but he is no Mr. Silver Tongue. The late night talk show circuit has fun with his verbal jaffes, as did his opponents in the two presidential elections.
So what does Mr. Kerry do? He insists he will apologize to nobody. That more than anything else is probably the biggest mistake. Quoting Shakespeare, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." A smart politician certainly could pull off the "botched joke" line, but should still apologize profusely to service men and women if for no other reason than to engage in damage control a week before an election. Apparently Senator Kerry doesn't have a professional image consultant.
Neither the media nor the web seem to be buying his explanation. What I found fascinating last night, John, is that NBC is no longer quoting Kerry. Instead, they are reporting that Kerry insulted the military by saying students could end up stuck in Iraq if they don't get an education. Ouch!
Frankly I'm surprised to see this kind of journalistic paraphrasing going on. In my book, it isn't a shining example of journalistic integrity. But it speaks to the reaction that "the man on the street" had to the comment.
The response has been so strong that you can now find the quip on YouTube (within hours of it having been made), and Kerry has cancelled numeous campaign stops in the next day or two. From CNN...
Kerry's comment did not sit well even with leading members of his own party. A number of top Democrats told CNN they were upset with the senator for giving the Republicans election-time ammunition -- even if the GOP was hyping the remark.
"He has already cost us one election. The guy just needs to keep his mouth shut until after the election," a top Democratic strategist said Tuesday.