Kerry Discusses Botched Joke on Fox News Sunday

Before the midterm elections, Republicans, in a real desperation move, once again attempted to avoid discussion of the issues by lying about something John Kerry said. While it is too early to determine the long term effects of the smear, the current conventional wisdom is that Kerry’s chances in 2008 have been harmed. Of course this is from the same people who also wrote him off in 2003.

Kerry had to keep a low profile in the final week of the campaign to keep this smear from creating problems for Democratic candidates. Now he can start to work on reversing the damage to his reputation, and he started by going into the heart of the right wing smear machine, Fox News.

Kerry was interviewed on Fox News Sunday. By now, all but the most dishonest partisan hacks have acknowledged that Kerry was speaking about George Bush getting us stuck in Iraq and was in no way disparaging the troops. Chris Wallace, never willing to give up a potential attack on Kerry, had to settle for questioning the propriety of Kerry attacking Bush in this manner. Here is a portion of the interview:

I want to put up on the screen what it is that your office, your staff said was the joke that you meant to say.

Please put it up on the screen, if you will.

That you said, “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. Just ask President Bush.”

Question: Do you think that — that was the real joke; that’s not the botched joke. Do you think that that’s funny, to call the president of the United States dumb and lazy?

KERRY: I think they didn’t do their homework, and I think Americans know they didn’t do their homework. It was not a good joke. It was not well-stated. I own it; I apologized for it. And it’s time to move on.

Let’s look at this question of homework. Let’s look at the question of the troops. Who really was insulted?

I’m a veteran. I have fought all my life to help take care of veterans and to honor what service means. Just this past week, in the United States Senate, I added $18 million in order to help for mental health problems that a lot of veterans are having because they come back with post-traumatic stress syndrome, and there are waiting lines, and we’re not taking care of them.

You want to know what the insult to the troops is? The insult to the troops is sending them to war for false reasons. The insult to the troops is sending them to war without the equipment that they need, without the armor, without the armed Humvees. The insult was having the secretary of defense who, for month after month after month, refused to listen to the Congress and listen to his own advisers. The insult is having troops who have a strategy that has them mired without the diplomacy necessary to resolve what everyone has said cannot be resolved militarily.

Now, I’m going to continue to fight for that. That’s what the American people voted for the other day, Chris. And, you know, this parlor game of who’s up, who’s down, today or tomorrow, if I listened to that stuff, I never would’ve won the nomination, I never would’ve gotten up in the morning. And I’m not going to be sidetracked by it now, and nor should you.

WALLACE: But, Senator, people are trying to take a measure, as they look ahead to 2008, of the various candidates, and are they…

KERRY: Well, then, you know what I say to them? Take a measure of the guy who mortgaged his house when I was at 30 points below and nobody said I could win. Take a measure of a guy who got up every morning and went to Iowa and said, “I know how to win this.” Take a measure of a guy who was 10 points down and won three debates against a sitting president of the United States and put on a convention that had a great message to America about where we’re going.

I believe I learned a lot of lessons in that race. And one of the lessons is, when the full attack machine of the Republican Party is leveled at you, fight back. I fought back, for my honor, my integrity and for the rectitude of what I said.

Update: Video at Crooks and Liars.

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  1. 1
    beachmom says:

    Great excerpt, Ron. I thought it was a great interview.

  2. 2
    Probus says:

    This was a great interview and Senator Kerry handled himself like a statesman and never lost his temper as Wallace was expecting him to. He should do more of these interviews as they are the best way for him to communicate with people who bought into the Rove smear of Kerry just before the midterm elections. It didn’t hurt democrats then and it will have a minimal effect on Kerry if he chooses to run again. This is a great blog for true Kerry supporters. Thank you for providing this forum where Kerry supporters can share their views without fear of censorship and criticism.

  3. 3
    battlebob says:

    Wallace kept trying to goad Kerry into discussing the joke and Kerry turned the tables and used the entire interview to body slam bush repeatedly.
    It was great.

  4. 4
    Jason Andrew says:

    Kerry is a has-been dufus just like Gore. The sooner you democrats realize that the better off you will be. If they weren’t running against goofy Bush, it wouldn’t have even been close. Why don’t you focus on the future of the democrat party like Hillary and Obama and forget about Gore and Kerry. I probably shouldn’t give you guys good advice, but I can’t help it.

    If Kerry or Gore were president, it would definitely send people to the republican party. Those two are totally incompetent. Hillary would make a much better president.

    Why shouldn’t they ask Kerry about the joke? It was a big news when he made it. I guess they should only ask republicans about embarrassing things but not democrats? By asking Kerry about it, it gives him a change to explain what he meant.

  5. 5
    Jason Andrew says:

    Are you all equally as outraged about them taking Dan Quale’s comments out of context? Or that “mission accomplished” thing out of context?

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Why shouldn’t they ask Kerry about the joke?

    The problem wasn’t that they asked but that they were preoccupied about the joke as opposed to more important topics.

    I don’t see where “mission accomplished” was taken out of context. It’s been a long time since Quale’s been around so I don’t know which of his comments were taken out of context.

  7. 7
    Jason Andrew says:

    Well first of all, I am pretty sure Bush didn’t mean mission accomplished we can all go home because Iraq is a stable democracy. Did he ever define what the mission was? I think the main reasons we went over to Iraq were to get rid of Sadaam Hussein and secure his WMDS. Didn’t we do both before the “mission accomplished” photo?

    And I think that ship was headed home because its mission had been accomplished. So the photo op could have meant the ship’s mission.

    You left-wingers always give your people the benefit of the doubt and make excuses for them, but when it comes to republicans you never give them the benefit of the doubt and always think the worst of them without little or no reason or evidence.

    I really want to know, do you think Bush is evil do you think he just makes bad decisions?

    And I am sure, any skilled policitian could quickly explain the quote and then change the subject. Quit whining about how Kerry is treated and focus on real candidates.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    I can’t conceive of any rational interpretation of “mission accomplished” where it wasn’t an absurd statement. It looks to me like you’re the one who is going overboard in giving your guy the benefit of the doubt to the point of absurdity. You have things backwards. It is typically the right wing which uses tactics such as taking things out of context to make attacks while liberals are much more likely to stick to issues. Of course there are exceptions, but in general conservatives are much more guilty of this.

    Bush makes bad decisions. Evil in this case is too vague to say whether it applies. I’d also often disagree with his motivations, but it is a fine line where that becomes evil. I’d prefer to concentrate on the problems with his actions as opposed to whether or not he is evil.

    The point is that Kerry did quickly explain and try to change the subject but Chris Wallance kept wanting to return to it. There’s a lot more to discuss than just presidential candidates.

  9. 9
    Jason Andrew says:

    I just gave you two rational interpretations of the “mission accomplished” thing. Refute them if you think they are irrational. Do you agree with my two main reasons for going to Iraq? Do you disagree that they were both accomplished when he made the photo-op? Do you know for a fact that the ship wasn’t returning home after its mission was accomplished? I don’t think Bush was doing anything other politicians don’t do. He was doing a photo-op and I don’t see anything outrageous about the quote “mission accmplished” because as I just said, Sadaam was gone and we were able to make sure he didn’t have WMDs. I am not hypocritical like you because when I heard the Kerry joke, I thought it was taken out of context too. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt too. I don’t think he was making fun of the troops. So show the same fairness and say that Bush’s photo op wasn’t outrageous.

    I am willing to concede that both sides take things out of context but I don’t think republicans do it more than democrats. You are fooling yourself if you think liberals stick to the issues more. You only think that because you are liberal. Damn man, show some objectivity. The whole mission accomplished thing was a total diversion from the issues. Who cares if the president did a silly photo-op. I think you are just jealous because he looked so manly in that flight suit….

  10. 10
    Jason Andrew says:

    And the whole Bush is dumb thing. That is a total diversion from the issues. He isn’t dumb and any person with any sense would realize that. He just can’t speak very well.

    Did you notice how after the election, Kerry released his Yale grades and he actually had worse grades than Bush? Kerry had some D’s and F’s. I think he was only one year behind Bush, so there is some pretty good evidence that Bush is smarter than Kerry. And we know Bush was probably drunk the whole time, and he still made better grades than Kerry. And I think Bush actually scored better on his military entrance exams than Kerry. And one more point, they don’t let dumb people fly figher jets. Bush flew fighter jets in the national guard.

    And what about Al Gore? Didn’t he drop out of law school and some religious school too? I’ll bet Bush is smarter than Gore too.

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your interpretations are hardly rational.

    The whole point of criticizing Bush over the line is that the mission was in no means accomplished. This was more than a silly photo-op. It is a demonstration that the pre-war claims of a quick victory were not realistic.

    “You only think that because you are liberal.”

    If you actually read the site as opposed to assuming I’m a liberal Democrat you would see that I disagee with them on many issues. I associate more with liberals than conservatives as liberals are far more honest in their views and the methods by which they present them. I can disagree with many liberals and we can have a rational discussion based upon facts. (Obviously there are exceptions, and I’ve also had a number of posts critical of the nuttier aspects of the left here). On the other hand most currently active among the Republican quickly resort to distortion of the views of their opponents and avoidance of discussion of the actual issues.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    “And the whole Bush is dumb thing.”

    And I’ve written many times that the problem isn’t that Bush is dumb, but that he does have a lack of depth in his review of issues. You sure love to fall back on all these strawmen arguments. If you actually paid attention and got beyond your preconceptions you’d see that what liberals believe and what conservative commonly claim liberals believe are quite different.

    The whole grade thing is a non-issue. It wasn’t even news. Writings on Kerry’s such as Brinkley’s book were already out quoting Kerry as admitting he screwed around his first year in school and got bad grades. That’s hardly a measure of intelligence. More importantly, compare the remainder of their college careers where Kerry did surpass Bush.

  13. 13
    Jason Andrew says:

    You say “If you actually paid attention and got beyond your preconceptions you’d see that what liberals believe and what conservative commonly claim liberals believe are quite different.”

    Well the same goes for you, Ron. Practice what you preach.

    If the grade thing was a non-issue then why did Kerry wait until after the election to release his grades? He didn’t see it as a non-issue. And I am sure they both “screwed around” in college. Grades are some measure of intelligence when all else is equal. And I think Bush and Kerry’s situations were pretty similar.

    I don’t know what you mean by the remainder of their college years, but I know Bush has been president for 8 years and Kerry is only a senator…so I think Bush has surpassed Kerry. I think Kerry has a law degree from an average law school. Bush has a harvard MBA. I think the Harvard MBA beats Kerry’s law degree. Where is it from? Boston college?

    You see, I can’t lose this argument, because I don’t think Kerry is stupid or lacks depth. And I don’t know how you can say liberals don’t think Bush is stupid. I could probably find 100 quotes from prominent liberals saying that Bush is dumb. And what is the difference between lack of depth and being dumb? They are pretty similar.

    Ron, you always give lefties the benefit of the doubt and will never do the same for conservatives and republicans. And you are doing it again by trying to downplay the fact that Bush got better grades than Kerry.

  14. 14
    Jason Andrew says:

    And just because you disagree with Bush’s policies doesn’t mean he lacks depth. You probably just don’t understand his views because you have a different world view. A person with depth would understand that.

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Practice what you preach.”

    If you actually read this blog you would see that I do.

    “You see, I can’t lose this argument, because I don’t think Kerry is stupid or lacks depth”

    You have the mistaken idea that I care to spend the time arguing with your absurd ideas. It’s not about winning or losing arguments. It’s about making sense, and you repeatedly fail to do that.

  16. 16
    Brett says:

    Wow. The most superficial argument on Liberal Values. Most of the time, these comments debates are high-minded exchanges of important issues, such as the eternal tension between personal liberty and the common good, but this one…well.

    Jason Andrew, your words speak for themselves:

    “I don’t know what you mean by the remainder of their college years, but I know Bush has been president for 8 years and Kerry is only a senator…so I think Bush has surpassed Kerry. I think Kerry has a law degree from an average law school. Bush has a harvard MBA. I think the Harvard MBA beats Kerry’s law degree. Where is it from? Boston college?”

    Well, for one thing, Kerry got his law degree from Boston College Law School, which is one of the most selective law schools in the country. Also, a law degree is a law degree. Whether or not a law degree “beats” a MBA in value is open for debate, but it’s a still a freaking law degree.

    Second point. To say that “president beats senator, I win!” is an incredibly juvenile perspective. John Kerry has been an respected senator for over two decades, while George W. Bush has only been president for seven years. Following your superficial worldview, I could say that Kerry beats Bush for years spent in their office. But that is, of course, a dishonest argument. I feel it is much better to value a person’s “worth” through their accomplishments in life, not what grades they got in college (which can be determined by numerous other factors), not how many years they spend in an office, and not the relative rank of their position. Especially in a representative republican government, these gauges do not readily translate into an accurate reading of a person’s “value” or “worth.” It is important to look beyond these mere vanities.

    On a technical note, a senator is–under the democratic principles of the separation of powers–actually equal to the office of president. In today’s world, obviously, the presidency is definitely considered more “valuable” than a Senate seat, but it is ultimately what that person does in either office that determines their “worth.” Like how Senator Henry Clay is considered a more effective leader and thus more “valuable” than say, President James Buchancan, I believe Kerry has accomplished much more for his state and his country (Iran-Contra investigations, resolving the POW issue in Vietnam, etc.) in his twenty years as senator than Bush has in his seven years as president (his record speaks for itself).

    That’s how one really judges success or failure. Not through grades or position. But through actual accomplishment. You’re free to disagree on whether or not Kerry is better than Bush, but insisting on arguing from a rather shallow position will get you nowhere.

    I’m sorry that I donated so many words to such a frivolous debate on basically very small issues, but I felt that the primary failing of Alexander’s argument wasn’t being addressed by the ever brisk Ron Chusid. It is an unfortunate fact that superifical arguments have become the cornerstone of political life, so I feel it is necessary to combat such shallow and absurd declarations whenever they show up and threaten to undermine our nation’s political discourse.

    (Also, a quick note. Jason, while you have every right to be skeptical of the mistreatment that the “Mission Accomplished” banner has gotten by all sides, saying that “the photo op could have meant the ship’s mission” is demonstratively untrue. The pomp of the event (the aircraft landing and the major victorious speech that followed) makes it clear that this was more than a routine photo-op. This was meant to be a triumphalist historical moment.)

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:


    “It is an unfortunate fact that superifical arguments have become the cornerstone of political life, so I feel it is necessary to combat such shallow and absurd declarations whenever they show up and threaten to undermine our nation’s political discourse.”

    A worthy endeavor, and feel free to jump in, but its come to the point where it just isn’t practical for me to bother debating people like Jason over trivial issues such as this. It would be different if this was a hot topic, such as right after Kerry’s grades came out. Unfortunately I have limited time to spend blogging, and that time is far better spent in main blog posts which are seen by thousands as opposed to in the comments where only a small proportion of readers will see them.

    I don’t know if you noticed, but Jason has attempted to start such arguments after multiple posts, usually with arguments as weak as this. It’s not as if there’s any chance of changing his mind with the facts. Plus we get a new “Jason” every week or two.

    Most people with successful blogs find it necessary to avoid wasting time with such debates (and most of them don’t have as time consuming a profession as I do to contend with). Steve Benen addresses this directly in his About section:

    I’m a conservative Republican who disagrees with everything you write. Can I contact you to begin a lengthy debate?

    For the love of God, no. I appreciate spirited discourse as much as the next guy, but I’m afraid I’m not looking for a debate opponent right now.

    As for the topic, you have many good points. I don’t have time right now to dig up the specifics. but at the time of the release on this there was also a lot of information comparing Kerry and Bush’s subsequent college careers beyond freshman year, including Kerry being chosen to give the address on graduation. Of course Kerry’s ultimate success in college is seen in where he was accepted to Law school.

    There’s also the multiple business failures by George Bush where he had to be bailed out by his father’s friends, leading up to his failed presidency.

    Much more can also be said on why the mission was not accomplished, but this is not going to convince someone with beliefs such as Jason’s. Anyone other than someone with such a narrow worldview would realize how absurd this was, making prolonged argument over this worthless.

  18. 18
    Brett says:

    Yeah, I was quite amazed that you continued to engage him long into the night after it was clear that there was little hope that he could convinced of the superficiality and baseless nature of his arguments. I think it is very honorable that you make an effort to respond to a great many of the comments posted on your blog (except my rather lengthy review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Post #1944, but I can see why you probably overlooked that one), but, sometimes, the personal and unseemly attacks of these guys’ comments don’t really deserve a response. A reply merely encourages them.

    My primary motivation, however, for breaking that maxim was in the slim hope that “Jason” would read it and maybe have his self-righteous confidence be humbled a bit. Also, the mischaracterizations and untruths of his statements, especially of his smear of the very selective Boston College Law School, definitely deserved correction. It may not change his mind or any other similar minds, but at least his falsehoods have not gone unanswered.

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:


    “I was quite amazed that you continued to engage him long into the night”

    I was working (real work, not blog work) but I keep an eye on the blog on another window when working. This allows me to respond to worthwhile comments, eliminate spam that gets thru filters, and periodically add a post should I take a break and find something of interest in the RSS reader.

    I don’t recall the specifics but I probably didn’t get to responding to the Harry Potter comment either as it came at a time whicn I was busy or due to the subject matter. Reviews of something like this are highly subjective and there is no right or wrong view on the book.

    “A reply merely encourages them.”

    Yes, I tried to keep replies brief in the hopes of avoiding a time consuming debate, but that didn’t work with Jason. The real problem was that this is just one of his arguments. As he isn’t concerned with either facts or logic, he could argue endlessly on multiple posts, wasting time without getting anywhere. I certainly have to wonder about people who have this much time to kill as there are lots of them going from blog to blog.

    Even though he had some quite inaccurate comments on Kerry I especially didn’t think it was worth much time on this one. As it is an old thread very few people would see it. The vast majority of readers come from either RSS readers and from posts which are picked up by sources like Reuters and USA Today’s online sites. Such readers might click thorugh to the comments on the post they are reading, but they do not see the front page of the blog with recent discussions. I doubt more than a handful of people have seen Jason’s arguments here. Those who are likley to click on comments in old threads are probably regulars who wouldn’t believe what Jason was saying anyways.

  20. 20
    Skeptic says:

    Damn, those trolls are getting dumber and dumber.

  21. 21
    Ron Chusid says:


    I don’t know how you could say any one is dumber than another. They all repeat pretty much the same talking points, all show the same weak logic, and all show the same limitations in their knowledge.

  22. 22
    Skeptic says:

    Yeah, you’re right. Are you sure you don’t have one troll who keeps coming here under a bunch of different names?

  23. 23
    Ron Chusid says:

    They could only be doing that if they also have a way to post under differnt IP addresses.

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