Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush
What the senator said about the President and the war might not have been very funny, but that's not the point
First published: Thursday, November 2, 2006
Sen. John Kerry has always seemed very thoughtful yet rather stiff. So it's not terribly surprising that his attempt at a joke at President Bush's expense was a dud. Mr. Kerry has taken himself off the campaign trail for a few days and an appearance on those TV shows where they mix a bit of news in with their humor would seem to be out of the question.
But let's get this much straight. Mr. Kerry wasn't disparaging the American troops in Iraq. No one who has been in combat, as he has, would think of saying such a thing.
Here's what Mr. Kerry did say as he campaigned Monday for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
For that, Mr. Kerry is getting ambushed by the White House in a manner that's awfully reminiscent of the smearing of his Vietnam War record during the 2004 presidential campaign.
Here's President Bush: "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful. The senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology."
This, from the very president and commander in chief who last month suggested that the Iraq war will go down in history as just a comma. This, from a president and commander in chief who should be paying less attention to a defeated political rival and more attention to U.S. forces having to retreat, in essence, from the streets of eastern and central Baghdad.
Stuck? Did someone say stuck?
It's, yes, Mr. Kerry who sees this war for what it's become, and is refreshingly willing to say as much.
Mr. Kerry did apologize Thursday, to "any service member, family member or American" who may have been offended nonetheless by his poor attempt at humor. But he made this equally important point as well.
"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 time, we'd think, Mr. Kerry will be out of his self-imposed exile, welcomed back by even the Democratic political candidates who are annoyed at him for telling an unfunny joke. He'll need a new stock phrase, though. So how about what he said in 1971 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Vietnam War?
"How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?"