John Kerry, A Mangled Joke, And The Truth

Remember when David Letterman told that “Oprah, Uma” joke on the Academy Awards show? Not very funny, and Letterman has never been invited to host the Academy Awards again. Yesterday John Kerry told a poor joke and even mangled the punch line. Definitely think twice before inviting John Kerry to host the Academy Awards, but beyond that this episode should not have very much significance.

Despite its minimal significance, we may never hear the end of this because the right wingers who, just like during the 2004 presidential campaign, are afraid to respond to John Kerry’s actual positions are jumping all over this. Why discuss his actual views on Iraq, making health care affordable, or increasing support for the troops when they can attack him over a mangled joke?

Kerry intended to make a joke about all the mistakes made in Iraq by George Bush, who certainly has not made good use of his education:

“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.” [Update: Journalists who have since reviewed the actual prepared text report that it ended with “you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.” ]

Unfortunately Kerry got off the script, leaving out the word us, changing the apparent meaning of the statement. If critics want to say he should not be the next host of The Tonight Show after messing up a punch line like this, they may have a point. Beyond that, their attacks on Kerry make absolutely no sense, especially considering his strong record for supporting the troops and his fellow vets.

If the literal words rather than intended meaning are to be the litmus test, certainly there are a couple of gaffes from Kerry which can be exploited, but there are whole books of them from George Bush. By the standards of those who are now attacking Kerry we should also condemn George Bush for “admitting” he is working on new ways to harm our country:

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
–George Bush at signing of defense appropriations bill, August 5, 2004

More classic Bush gaffes are available here. Do we attack each as if it was a real statement of his beliefs?

This was not the greatest delivery of a joke and, as I said above, this might be used as evidence to argue that John Kerry would make a poor host for The Tonight Show. Kerry did live up to the reputation of Johnny Carson in one way. When Johnny Carson told a poor joke, he would make an even better joke of his failure and save the show. Instead of responding with a joke, Kerry provided an excellent follow up by relaying the truth:

Senator John Kerry issued the following statement in response to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, assorted right wing nut-jobs, and right wing talk show hosts desperately distorting Kerry’s comments about President Bush to divert attention from their disastrous record:

“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. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. 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.

The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it. These Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor.

Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men. And this time it won’t work because we’re going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a sliver of light for their distortions. No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still and lose strategy in Iraq.”

Update: Transcript of Kerry’s news conference in Seattle today responding to these attacks.

Update II: Even Kos, who rarely misses a chance to dump on Kerry, is defending him today:

Man, there are times when this stuff is more ridiculous than anything a fiction writer or satirist could ever dream up.

So John Kerry mangles a sentence in a public appearance, and the right-wing smear machine and its traditional media enablers are apoplectic. I mean, John Kerry is a, um, junior senator not running for reelection! And he’s, um, a war hero who hates the troops! And um, we hate him because he’s John Kerry!

Trust me, I haven’t been shy to pile on Kerry when warranted, but what a load of bullshit this is. And showing that he has learned from his Swiftboating days, Kerry hit back hard…

Kerry responded perfectly. Perhaps not in a way that the DC wise men would approve, those Gang of 500 fools who have enabled this administration’s disasters at home and abroad.

Perhaps not in a way that will appease the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and their acolytes who would rather talk tough than actually show genuine courage by enlisting in the armed forces.

And sure, not in a way that will appease Republicans hoping to find anything to desperately detract from their crappy policies, crappy candidates, and lie- and hate-filled campaigns.

Yeah, those people won’t be happy with Kerry’s response.

But in this case, Kerry responded the right way. Not by bowing to the full blast of the right wing noise machine, but by standing up to it on behalf of our troops, our nation, and the truth.

Related Story: Reaction to Republican Smears on John Kerry

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  1. 1
    Jeremy says:


    I didn’t know that the President was the only one calling the shots on Capitol Hill. If I remember correctly the declaration of war was passed in the Senate and House of Congress with flying colors. Now I do so believe that there are Democrats in both the Senate and House of Congress. Now in order for this Declaration to pass wouldn’t BOTH sides have to approve it?!?!?

    Hmm… makes me kind of wonder why everyone is blaming Bush when everything he does has checks and balances that’s the beauty of our government. If you actually pull the transcripts from the declaration hearing you can see that John Kerry along with many others put themselves down as “For.” All this is is another way that the Democrats are playing pass the buck.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    There wss never a declaration of war.

    A resolution was passed giving Bush the abilitiy to go to war as a last resort if we were proven to be endangered by WMD. The purpose of the resolution was primarily to give Bush the big stick so he could force the inspectors back into Iraq. Once the inspectors were back in and no threat was found there was no need to go to war. Kerry spoke out against going to war many times before the war started. If you pull the transcripts of Kerry’s floor statement you could see that he warned Bush against going to war under the circumstances in which he did.

    The IWR also does not excuse Bush’s incompetent handling of the war.

  3. 3
    The TruthMaster says:

    Hey Ron,
    Sorry but I think to much of that Democartic kool-Aid has clouded your memory. It was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who came up with all the authenticated logs that showed Kerry was NOT where he said he was when he said he was there!! That was the whole point of the creation of the Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth organization. After Kerry tried to make himself out to be something he wasn’t (Probably because he had told his wife those stories long ago to get her fortune) he was then exposed as being a counterfeit on most things that he says!!

  4. 4
    kj says:

    TM, I love fiction, but your stories need a lot of work.

  5. 5
    The TruthMaster says:

    For Jeremy

    Great comments!!

    Thanks and I appreciate your service to our country regardless of what Kerry thinks about you!!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    If Bill Maher was here he’d say, New Rule: You can’t callyourself TruthMaster while lying about what Kerry said.

    Nothing the Swift Boat Liers came up with has any connection to the truth. Both the military record and the accounts of people who were actually there back Kerry and showed the Swifties to be liars.

  7. 7
    janet says:

    To the despicable person on here—-don’t you even dare bring up WW2 with me buddy. You have no idea about my family and the role we played in that war and what the Nazis did to us. So just shut up.

  8. 8
    kj says:


    I’m thinking that person is out of school for the day and/or on a computer unsupervised. The thought process just isn’t there.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:


    He even seems too dumb to realize that World War II, as well as World War I, was one by Democrats. While Republicans love to give Ronald Reagan sole credit for winning the Cold War, they ignore the initial containment of Communism by Democrats which made this possible.

  10. 10
    Ken Rogers says:

    Just saw a photograph on FOX news worth posting.
    It’s our troops holding up a big sign for John Kerry.
    It says.

    God bless our troops and how typical of them to come up with a joke after being slapped in the face by one of our elected leaders.

    Massachusetts, thank you so much for giving us John Kerry.

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:


    You need to check your facts. It’s been quite well established that Kerry was criticizing Bush, not the troops. Of course you’d rather spread smears rather than consider what actually happened.

  12. 12
    Larry says:


    Please encourage John Kerry to publish the unedited original speech so we can see the “us” he left out.

    After it’s published, we can all move on and the right-wingers will be proven wrong.

    Surely there would be no harm in scaning the original couple of lines prepared by the speech writer to shut everyone up!

    I fear for the safety of this historic document. It’s probably already in the shredder.


  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    Sorry, I have no way to get the original.

    Considering that it came right after Kerry’s joke about Bush coming from the State of Texas and now being in a state of denial sure goes along with this being yet another Bush joke. John Kerry frequently tells jokes about Bush. John Kerry does not tell jokes about the troops.

    I didn’t receive the text of that day’s speech, but sometimes I have received advanced texts of Kerry’s public statements and have followed along when televised. Kerry quite typically varies from the prepared text. Generally he improves upon it, but Monday missing a word did harm the delivery.

    Realistically if they came out with the prepared text at this point those intent upon distorting what he said will just denies that it is legitimate.

  14. 14
    The TruthMaster says:

    Hey Larry:

    Hate to point it out to you but that so-called document you are worried about being “Shreeded” is from your guy’s camp!! Why would he shred it if it proves anythiong, WHICH it wouldn’t!! Have you not SEEN the tape. It is not edited and there is NO US in his comments. Quit trying to bail this jerk out. He said it, He menat it and that’s it! It’s all on the tape!!

  15. 15
    The TruthMaster says:

    Well yesterday was a tough one for the Kerry Team in MN!!

    FINALLY, some Democrats admitted that Kerry did say what he said and they voiced their disapproval!!
    Both the DEMOCRATIC U.S. Senate Candidate and the DEMOCRATIC U.S. House Candidate called the Kerry Camp and told them to “Stay Home”!! He was scheduled to come to MN to lend his “Name” to two Fund-Raising events for them. These two DEMOCRATS called him and said: NO THANKS, we feel you will do more harm than good!!! So it is NOT just the Republicans who see this guy as an idiot!!

  16. 16
    Ron Chusid says:


    Still lying about what happened.

    The tapes validate Kerry’s claim. He was telling more than one joke about Bush. He made no jokes about the troops. The explanation from the Kerry camp about the meaning fits perfectly with the context while the right wing attacks make little sense without taking a limited clip and distorting its meaning. He was saying Bush, not the troops, are stuck in Iraq. This is even clearer once you understand that he left out the “us” but in the full context it is still clearly a statement about Bush.
    Kerry cancelled his campaign appearances to avoid the distractions for the other candidates. That in no way suggests that the lies about what he said have any validity.

  17. 17
    Jackie says:

    The TruthMaster Says:

    Hey jackie:
    A few details of your latest writing are simply untrue. (I am sure you probably know that but it doesn’t stop your side in “Dan Rather” mode of saying them anyway!! Kerry was addressing STUDENTS and talking about them not growing up to be Dumb (Look at Kerry’s quote – Dumb is the opposite of Smart which is what he is trying to tell them to be. So when he says they should grow up to be “Smart” he then menas “So you won’t be “Dumb” like the troops in Iraq!! That’s what he said! Read the quote and look at the film. It was no “Joke” as he now says and even if iot was do you want to follow a so-called leader who wants to turn Iraq into a “Joke” for hias political advantage?? Come on, wake up and stop drinking the Dem Kool-Aid!!


    Regardless of how you try and spin it, in todays economic environment if you don’t study hard, get a good education and are lucky enough to do well, then the Military is the only real other option. And with todays current ‘Foreign policies’, you will go to Iraq if you join the Military.
    And as for what I want in a leader; I want Honesty, Honor, Humanity and Humility.
    I want Intelligence, Awareness of economic reality, Knowledge of world history, Real interest in Current/historical foreign affairs.
    I want a leader who upholds the Constitution.
    I want a leader who does not believe the Office of Presidency means they is above the Law.
    I want a leader who does not lie about connections between 9/11 and Saddam Hussin just so he can dress up as a ‘War President’

    I want to know the TRUTH about 9/11, the War in Iraq.

    I don’t drink Kool-Aid, I am not a Democrat.
    I am the mother of four sons, I work full time and obviously I am far more aware of the real world then you.
    Perhaps, you should find out what exactly what you’ve drinking?

  18. 18
    Ron Chusid says:

    Now that various journalists (as well as Jon Stewart, who often beats out the real journalsits) have seen the prepared text it looks even better for Kerry.

    Not only is the missing “us” there, but the text as written is even more clearly a slam on Bush and not a comment on the troops.

    The joke in the prepared text ends with, “you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

    It couldnt be any clearer who is is talking about.

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