Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry's apology (in context)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Alright, Kerry has apologized both at his own website and on Imus. So enough already. It was a stupid joke, a "poorly stated joke," a "botched joke," and he should have been far less ambiguous in telling it. And he should have known better.

But... no. What was there to know better? All that happened was that he missed one word of the joke. The botch was a single word: "us". He said college students should study hard or "get stuck in Iraq," but what he meant to say was "get us stuck in Iraq". In other words, those who didn't study hard got us stuck in Iraq. Get it? Bush didn't study hard and got us stuck in Iraq. The joke, such as it was one, was about Bush, an intellectual failure, not the troops in Iraq, and certainly not the entire military.

But who has not missed a word in a speech? Who has not misspoken? Certainly not Bush, whose outrage at Kerry's remark, like that of McCain and the rest of the Kerry-bashers, has been phony and forced.

Not that the apology/explanation will satisfy the Republicans and their blogospheric minions, all of whom are looking to pick a fight, any fight, and for whom Kerry is a convenient target of abuse. They removed his remarks from context, if they even took the time to know the context, which I doubt, if they even care about the context, which they don't. But they're desperate, and in their desperation there seems to be no ceiling to their political depravity.

They are outraged at Kerry and are using his "joke" as an excuse to hurl vicious accusations at the Democrats, but where is the outrage at the Republicans' vilification of gays and Latino immigrants, at the reprehensible smear campaign that Republicans are waging from coast to coast?

Well, the Republicans have no time for such introspection at the moment, not that they would understand just how repugnant their smear campaign is anyway. They're down in the polls, they're likely to lose the House and possibly the Senate, and, as we all know by now, this is how they operate both in victory and in defeat, both when up and when down. As Jonathan Chait put it at the L.A. Times the other day, "Republicans don't want an actual choice election, they want to run against a mythological Democratic Party so frightening that the voters overlook all the GOP's failures".

Kerry stupidly (and unintentionally) played into that mythology of a villainous Democratic Party that is not just frightening but unpatriotic and traitorous.

But that's all the Republicans have left. The fact that they refuse to let this go; the fact that their campaign has been reduced to distortions, misrepresentations, and baseless accusations; the fact that they are re-vilifying the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee (and a decorated war hero) -- these facts signal that they are truly a defeated party no matter how next week's votes turn out.

There's your context for Kerry's joke, the Republican response, and Kerry's apology.

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