It’s the first of November and we have the 3,867th tempest in a teapot of the election cycle. It erupted when John Kerry told college students in Los Angeles, “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.”
Almost as soon as the sound of his voice died away, everyone breathing and capable of speech within the Bush camp was apoplectically calling for an apology for the great affront Kerry had hurled at “their” valiant boys in the field.
Kerry, in a stunning display of what made him a crappy Presidential candidate, answered not only, “no”, but “hell no” to an apology. He said his statement was the product of a bad joke and he railed, quite rightfully, about how the calls for an apology were nothing more than a diversionary tactic to change the subject away from Team Ineptitude’s record and toward his misstatement. Clearly, much of his ire, deservedly so, bubbled from the heinous treatment he got from the Swiftboaters during his time on the electoral hot seat. But as far as it went, it was a good speech that showed some of the fire democrats must display in order to shed their well-deserved title as the wimps of the political world.
As usual, however, a tiny peek under the hood of this particular kerfluffle is in order.
I heard recordings of the statement and personally found it a tad difficult to square the statement with Kerry’s explanation of it being a failed joke. At the same time, I find it even more difficult to understand why a man who is generally well-disposed toward veterans and our troops would say such a stupid thing, especially since he should have known it would create exactly the type of issue it has. All things considered, I’m somewhat favorably disposed to take his explanation at face value because of those inconsistencies. However, I can’t deny he was a colossal boob for saying it.
Whether it was a mistake or an actual attack on the troops doesn’t much matter. A reasonable person can see how the statement could be misconstrued and Kerry and his party would have been much better served by simply saying, “Oops, I’m sorry I misspoke.” But he didn’t and now the damage is done.
Having said that, the republicans aren’t off the hook either.
Given Bush’s reputation as a walking malaprop who misstates more than he gets right, it’s a little disingenuous to attack Kerry for a potentially similar offense. It shows a shocking lack of statesmanship (and there’s no shortage of that disease on either side lately) and class. Even if Kerry had delivered an attack on the troops, I’m confident that his record of supporting the troops compares more than favorably to the administration’s ineptitude in dealing with them.
Kerry may be a clumsy boob who may owe people an apology, but I don’t think anyone – including fair-minded republicans – can deny the demands for an apology are anything more than a bait and switch to change the subject from the War of Error to something more palatable for the republicans to talk about (although for the life of me, I can’t think of a subject where they can run on their record).
So here’s the score:
Kerry: A clumsy orator who should be much more careful than this incident demonstrates. His reply to calls for an apology was eloquent in the things it got right, but at the end of the day, should have contained an apology. If you are one of the fence-sitters who previously leaned left, but now swings back to the republicans based solely on this incident, I believe you may be a fool. Or as George so ineloquently puts it, “…fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”
Bush, et al: A gaggle of misanthropes who have bungled nearly everything they’ve touched. Bungled so badly, in fact, they’re in real danger of losing control not only of the electorate, but the stupid situations they’ve lead us into. Their grasping at this event, instead of running on their record, is symbolic of why we find ourselves in the decrepit state we do today. For a party that carps so much about personal accountability and great leadership, they have the unerring ability to ignore those noble goals in search of the next tarpit for some fresh ammunition to attack anyone who dares believe differently.
In other words, it’s the American people who are the losers in this sad mudslinging match. And the greatest losers among us are the troops who sit in the sand a thousand miles away, being picked off like flies while the administration looks for a new tactic to remove a giant thumb from their asses.
Compared to that, it seems to me both sides owe us an apology.