Reaction to Republican Smears on John Kerry

John Kerry’s mangled joke dominated the news yesterday, identifying once again those right wingers who prefer to distort what people like Kerry say rather than discussing his real positions and the issues. While there was room for confusion in Kerry’s statement due to leaving out a crucial word, the fact remains that the right wingers will always jump at a chance to falsely claim a Democrat is knocking the military.

Fortunately there was some accurate reporting. Keith Olbermann blasted George Bush for being too dumb to realize that Kerry was calling him dumb (video here), and will be doing a Special Comment tonight.

James Carville also explained the situation:

“It is much easier to say, I botched a joke, than to say, I botched a war. And he was very frank. … He gave an explanation. And, as I say, Senator Kerry is one of the great war heroes to ever serve in the Congress. He has about a 100 percent record when it comes to the veterans. So, I don’t understand exactly what the problem is. He didn’t owe anybody an apology. He owed an explanation” (“Situation Room,” CNN, 10/31).

There was a surprising voice supporting the truth yesterday, Bill O’Reilly:

I don’t believe John Kerry meant to demean any American military member. I just don’t. I think that fair-minded people know that that would be political suicide for the senator. He wouldn’t do it” (“O’Reilly Factor,” 10/31).

Not to mention Kerry’s long time support of the troops, which the right wing has gone to great lengths to attempt to distort. On the other side, Morton Kondracke had a comment mangled even worse than Kerry’s joke:

“I think that he was criticizing the troops, but I don’t think that he meant to do it” (“Special Report,” 10/31).

John Kerry was criticizing George Bush, not the troops. If you accept that he didn’t “mean to do it”, this leads to the truth that he was actually criticizing Bush, not the troops.

Kerry appeared on Imus this morning (video here) apologizing for botching a joke and clarifying once again that he was criticizing George Bush, not the troops. From AP’s report:

Sen. John Kerry apologized for “a botched joke” about President Bush’s Iraq policies that led Bush and fellow Republicans to accuse him of insulting U.S. troops. Even some Democrats assailed Kerry, who had some campaign appearances scratched Wednesday.

“Of course I’m sorry about a botched joke. You think I love botched jokes?” Kerry said during an appearance on Don Imus’ nationally syndicated radio program. “I mean, you know, it’s pretty stupid.”

Kerry, D-Mass., said he meant no offense to troops. “You cannot get into the military today if you do badly in school,” he said. But he said the White House was purposely twisting his words, and asserted that it is Bush who owes troops an apology for a misguided war in Iraq.

“I’m sorry that that’s happened,” he said of his comment. “But I’m not going to stand back from the reality here, which is, they’re trying to change the subject. It’s their campaign of smear and fear.”

In the long run this incident may be of value, as it allowed John Kerry to show how he has learned from the 2004 race and will quickly defend himself should anyone try to Swift Boat him again. This also leaves Kerry as a leading spokesman for the Democrats and a leading opponent of Bush’s failed policies in Iraq–not a bad position to be in as the 2008 race heats up after the midterm elections.

Related Story: John Kerry, A Mangled Joke, And The Truth

Update: Taylor Marsh has posted about those Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Harold Ford who have tried to distance themselves from Kerry. We know that sooner or later the Republican Noise Machine will create their own lies to attack the other Democrats. They will learn that a right wing lie should never be given any credibility.

It is also a safe bet that, when they inevitably come under attack, John Kerry will be one of the first to stand up and defend them.

Update II: Statement from John Kerry

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 never intended to refer to any troop.

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.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

–John Kerry

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  1. 1
    Ken Rogers says:

    James Carville,
    “It’s much easier to say I botched a joke . . .”

    Oh? is that what is was? A botched joke? John Kerry hasn’t said that. What is your source?

    It was an insult and he hasn’t apologized yet for it and what’s more, this pompous, arrogant, elitist, self-absorbed hero (in his own mind and apparently yours) refuses to.

    Whether he is a hero is still in question . . . but maybe you missed that whole ‘swift boat veterans thing’.

    And what is his purpose in critisizing the Commander in Chief in a time of war? Does he realize that these statements just tear our country apart? Or is his arrogance so great that he doesn’t care?

    Thanks, Massachusetts, for giving us John Kerry.
    (and Ted Kennedy too)
    A double pox on you.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    “What is your source?”

    You need to look at more than just the spin of the right wing media. I was a bit puzzled by the initial reports, but rather than attacking without facts I checked on what really happened. Rather than trusting right wing sources known for their dishonesty, I went with reliable information from David Wade and Dick Bell of John Kerry’s office and blog. This was soon followed up by Kerry’s own public statements. See the links in my two posts here on the topic. It’s clear that Kerry was attacking Bush, not the troops.

    Yes I remeber the Swift Boat thing. It was proven to be a pack of lies to smear Kerry, just like this.

    Being able to criticize the Commander in Chief at any time is what Democracy is all about. Isn’t that supposedly what we are fighting for? It is especially necessary when the President has taken us down a course which is disasterous for the country, and hides bethind what will likely become a perpetual state of war to oppose those principles of liberty this country was founded upon.

  3. 3
    Nick says:

    Doctor Chusid

    I am a very depressed Kerry democrat right now. While I think Kerry’s response was spot on I have to a cassandra and ask, how much does this hurt Kerry in 08? It seems like an anwful lot of Democrats are dumping on Kerry and the effects have depressed me greatly. So how does Kerry recover from this for the campaign in 2008, even if the Dems make a lot of pickups in 2006?

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    It is impossible to judge the long term effects on John Kerry’s political career. I would hope that attacks based upon a lie will not hurt him in the long run. The fact that Kerry is standing up to the lies as he has done will help with some of the post 2004 criticism.

    As for those Democrats who abandon Kerry for short term political expediency, they are likely to one day be faced with the same sort of lies about themselves. When that happens, my bet is that John Kerry will be among the first to stand up for them.

  5. 5
    Nick says:


    thanks for the pick me up. Here’s that Rahm Emanuel quote I was referencing earlier.

    “Give me five more John Kerry’s,” says Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). “He’s a fighter, and he puts his money where his mouth is.” – Roll Call, 5.1.06

  6. 6
    Lou says:

    >>It is also a safe bet that, when they inevitably come under attack, John Kerry will be one of the first to stand up and defend them.

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