By now, most of the mainstream media have reported on John Kerry’s “botched joke“. Here’s what he said:
The controversy started Monday when Kerry, speaking at a rally for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at Pasadena City College, said: “You know 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. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Regardless of intent, that had to be one of the most asshatted things he’s said this election period. Here’s what he was supposed to have said:
Afterward, a Kerry aide explained that the senator had “mangled” a prepared statement, which was actually supposed to be a barb at Bush: “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.”
Now I’m not a seasoned politician nor have I given public speeches(yet), but to screw up a prepared “joke” in such a way is something Kerry, in all his years in Congress, shouldn’t have done. It’s not that damn hard to read from a prepared speech, assuming of course he had the speech in front of him as most public speakers do. I completely agree with his sentiment from the prepared remarks, but the way it came out gave a swiftboat-load more ammunition to a faltering GOP.
But since this week’s winner is actually Kerry AND Bush, I figured I’d draw on Bush’s comments about Kerry’s statement:
“The senator’s suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful,” Bush said. “The men and women who serve in our all-volunteer armed forces are plenty smart and are serving because they are patriots — and Senator Kerry owes them an apology.”
What’s insulting and shameful is how Bush and the rest of the GOP is spinning this non-issue. I also want to point out that this is a much different John Kerry than in the run-up to the 2004 Presidential Election. He actually fought back after Bush’s comments. Here’s what Kerry had to say about that:
“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,” Kerry said in a statement Wednesday.
“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 [was] never intended to refer to any troop,” he said.
In the statement, the four-term senator continued to assert that the GOP was using the gaffe to distract voters from its own shortcomings.
“It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy,” he said. “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.”
Bush himself has made plenty of verbal gaffes in his 5 years as President. Among them are these fine bits of speechifying:
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
The second specifically got a lot of outrage from the reality-based community, but very little from the right-wing. I wonder why not. Taken at first glance—as the GOP has done with Kerry’s comments—it would appear that Bush is calling for the government to find new ways to hurt the U.S. and its citizens. Of course, I’m not foolish enough to think that’s what he meant, but the sentiment is the same.
So with that, I crown both Bush and Kerry Co-Asshats of the Week.