Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tempest in a teapot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Everyone's all over the now-notorious John Kerry "joke" -- you know, the "botched joke" that college students should study hard or "get stuck in Iraq".

CNN has the story here. Kerry himself has a response here. And the much ado in and around the blogosphere is here.

It was a stupid thing to say. He may be right, if I interpret his insinuation correctly, that many of the men and women in the armed forces, particularly the ones doing the fighting in Iraq, come from poor and uneducated backgrounds. This was a point vividly illustrated by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11, and it's a valid one. But his either/or is ridiculous. You don't either do well in college or head off to boot camp. The military isn't a collection of collegiate failures.

However, the huffing and puffing from Bush, McCain, and the various occupants of the right-wing insane asylum is outrageous, too. Kerry did not insult "every soldier serving in combat," as McCain suggested. Nor was his remark "insulting and shameful," as Bush suggested. It was just stupid, not least as it comes just a week before the midterms. Kerry should have known better than to provide Republicans with such ammunition.

They're blowing it out of proportion, of course, but they're desperate, and with many voters just now beginning to pay attention to politics, Kerry's "joke" gives Republicans something to cling on to as they struggle to present Democrats as soft on national security. Everything has been going the Democrats' way, but it's been a challenge to overcome the GOP-fabricated stereotypes that have long plagued them. With one "joke," Kerry has reminded voters that Democrats have been, or rather have been perceived to be, anti-military and soft on national security, certainly not the party to wage the war on terror or to deal effectively with the myriad threats America currently faces.

John Kerry, I believe, is a good and decent man. A hero. A proud veteran. I supported him enthusiastically in '04. But this is hardly what Democrats' need. This one "joke," badly presented and terribly miscalculated, gives Republicans a dash of hope when for all intents and purposes they had little hope left. They'll milk this until there's absolutely nothing left, and then some, and they'll use it to smear all Democrats with insinuated label of "traitor". With so many races so close, even a slight breeze could make all the difference. Let's hope not, but this "joke" could turn out to be just the gust of wind Republicans needed to make the midterms competitive again.


Regardless, it seems to me that the incident at the Allen campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia was far more serious than Kerry's "joke". If you missed it, here's the Post: "A Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen at a campaign rally in Charlottesville yesterday was shoved, put into a headlock and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers."

First the macaca comment and now this. Oh, and all that racism. The entire Allen campaign, from the senator on down, seems to amount to nothing but organized thuggery.

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  • Michael

    Yes, tempast in a teapot sums it up ... Many (too many, perhaps because it is Kerry) are intentionally taking the comment out of context ... Both Matthews and Olbermann read the AP report on it and/or showed the fuller video, where it is crystal clear Kerry is aiming his remarks at Bush ...

    Then again, I suppose the White House has to go this route - it's alittle late to send the President out there to defend that he isn't stupid


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:26 AM  

  • For the first time yesterday, I heard Kerry's penultimate comments to his ill-conceived line (in fact, I wish you would add a few of his run-up lines here). He was beating up on the President, mocking him for bad policy. He reaches the punchline- and it's ambiguous. Contextually, he was referring to Bush, not to troops. I'm not a Kerry fan- he's a transparent publicity hound with a political tin ear. But the GOP counterattacks are absurd. From a practical perspective, Kerry would do well to apologize and hide- he's not doing his party any good by holding out. But his firm stand is all about Kerry & his (mis)perceived chances in 08, not about his party.

    By Blogger cakreiz, at 10:07 AM  

  • "John Kerry, I believe, is a good and decent man."

    John Kerry is neither good nor decent.

    He began his public career by vilifying American troops before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

    His testimony has been proven false. Not a single claim of a war crime from the "Winter Soldier" investigation was ever borne out.

    He continues to try to make political hay by slandering brave and intelligent American soldiers.

    This time, however, we aren't fooled.

    By Blogger Gandalin, at 12:41 PM  

  • Very good point, JTD and Cakreiz. Bush and the Republicans are taking Kerry's "joke" out of context. The full statement vindicates Kerry. Sort of. I still think it was a stupid thing to say, not least because the "joke" is so ambiguous. He may have been referring to Bush, but it didn't come across that way. He ought to apologize and move on. Just say he's sorry that his words were misconstrued. Fighting back against Bush -- although I know that's what he's all about these days (a little too late, no?) -- just doesn't make sense. Why get into a fight with the GOP on this?

    Gandalin, I just don't agree with you. Like him or not, Kerry is a war hero. He did far more for his country than the current "commander-in-chief," who was off skipping his duties in Alabama throughout the Vietnam War. And he didn't slander "brave and intelligent American soldiers". He shouldn't have said what he said, but only because he wasn't clear and has been misconstrued and vilified.

    If you're so concerned about American men and women in uniform, shouldn't you direct your ire at Bush? He's never been in combat and yet here he is sending men and women into a disaster of his own making in Iraq. The blood is on his hands.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:02 PM  

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