October 31, 2006

They're Taking The Brunt

Kerry apparently botched a joke about the president and it’s being twisted and cast as an attack against the troops. According to the Kerry team, this is what Kerry meant to say”

“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. 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.” - Senator John Kerry

Apparently, its a joke he’s told before. Unfortunately, as Kerry puts it, he botched the joke, making it sound (to many people) like individuals are sent to Iraq for not studying hard enough. And the Republicans are salivating at the chance to change the national discussion away from the failures of the president and congress and on to an imaginary attack on the troops.

Does anyone in their right mind think Kerry would attack the troops? I mean, seriously?

In any case, Kerry is standing behind his sentiments. And why shouldn’t he? Kerry is correct that we ended up with an incurious president that dragged us into a war in Iraq as a result of being soft on facts, details, strategy and diligence.

But Kerry stumbled at a rally, the Republicans had a well-timed question planted in front of Tony Snow just to plaster (and misrepresent) his misstep in front of the whole nation.

This botched joke has raised another issue. We’ve all suffered under the bad policies of this president. But I believe it to be the case that the people who have taken the brunt of the suffering under this administration are the people in the armed forces on whom we rely to defend our country.

Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to criticise a man for attacking the troops exactly at the time he is criticising the president for making poor use of our troops?

The Republicans are drooling at the prospect that voters will not figure out the answer to that question.

Posted by James at October 31, 2006 4:39 PM
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Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to criticise a man for attacking the troops exactly at the time he is criticising the president for making poor use of our troops?

Yes, just as it is ridiculous that Bush and friends have been on the talk shows saying they were "never about stay the course," but they're doing it.

"This Week" (Oct. 23):

http://www.abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/story?id=2594541&page=2

STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because James Baker said that he's looking for something between cut and run…

BUSH: Cut and run and.

STEPHANOPOULOS: … and stay the course.

BUSH: Well, listen, we've never been stay the course, George.

***

http://mediamatters.org/items/200610230002

In an interview on CBS' The Early Show, White House senior adviser Dan Bartlett stated that the Bush administration's Iraq policy has "never been a 'stay the course' strategy" -- a claim that the Associated Press reported immediately after. But neither the CBS interview nor the AP article made any mention of previous, repeated assertions by President Bush that the United States "will stay the course in Iraq."

All is not lost, however. Here's an enjoyable video monage on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZE20lzZZF0

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 8:54 AM

It appears that, no matter what Kerry meant, people have taken it a certain way. (Make your own conclusions about whether softball questions to Tony snow and appearances by the president helped that perception along).

In any case, there is no escaping two things:

1) No matter what Kerry meant, he screwed up in one way or another. And his damaged goods history makes him the perfect target.
2) Kerry has painted himself into a corner and there is no way out of this for him.

There is no way to have the message "Failed GOP policies have gotten us in trouble" heard over the din of catcalls against a misinterpretation of a stupid Kerry joke that wouldn't even have been very good if it had landed correctly. Yet that is the reality.

I think this hurts Kerry a lot. Honestly (and despite having had my support over Bush in 2004, and my opinion that he has been unfairly criticized at times) our household has a rocky history with Kerry support. Maggie picketed the polling places against Kerry in the last Senatorial election and we cast protest votes against him for giving the president the War Powers Act which later allowed him to take the war to Iraq. So we're not the biggest Kerry boosters and this doesn't help.

Where I have the most difficulty, though, is with people's immediate rush to be as uncharitable to Kerry as possible while (as Patti points out) the president can deny reality and people barely bat an eye. Perhaps we just don't expect much from Bush? I don't think that completely explains it. Frankly, I think people have fixated on Kerry as a Massachusetts Democrat elitist and whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, they don't want him speaking for them.

I have to agree that, if I wanted someone to communicate for me, express my feelings, represent me, Kerry would not be high on the list. He was higher than Bush, for a lot of reasons, but when he lost it wasn't difficult to see that other people felt the same way, and they didn't dislike Bush as much as I did, and their vote should have been obvious.

The Democratic party needs someone else to speak for them.

Is this me distancing myself from Kerry? I guess so. It gets tiring after a while, and Kerry doesn't get that when people are not going to give you the benefit of the doubt, you've got extra work to do building bridges. You can't risk being funny or divisive. Kerry doesn't seem to have that in him.

I will stop short of dropping this whole thing on his shoulders. I stand by my original post, and lament the fact that this sort of thing plays so well in the media.

If this one botched joke were the biggest problem facing the nation, what a wonderful situation we would be in.

Posted by: James at November 1, 2006 11:44 AM

Well, I've always complained that Kerry always stops talking just a few sentences too late. This is a good example of that. But it's still better than "bring it on" or "we're going to stay the course" or "when did I ever say anything about staying the course."

Posted by: Julie at November 1, 2006 11:53 AM

Thanks, JP.

Posted by: leslie at November 1, 2006 12:10 PM

Kerry absolutely can not run for president again. I can't believe he's even entertaining the idea. Message to New England: The liklihood of another one of us making it to the White House is very very slim so let it go, at least for the near future.

I am also extremely underwhelmed by the thought of Hilary Clinton running. Would that her husband could run again. Sigh...

Also, as much as I like Barak Obama and feel renewed every time I hear him speak, he needs to get some Congressional experience under his belt before he can run for president. When he's ready, he's going to be a fabulous candidate, and I'll be ready to do whatever I can to get him elected.

So...who will run and whom shall I support? I don't see anyone on the horizon, and it worries me greatly.

Who have I missed? Any suggestions from those of you in the ether?

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 12:21 PM

It's not really about what Kerry meant to say, it's about what he said.

I really don't understand his logic, Kerry could have apologized for his mistake and to anyone he might have offended and at the same time emphasized that his intentions where to criticize the president and his policies.

He could have diffused the situation and hammered home the point he originally wanted to make and thanks to his gaff, to a much larger audience. Instead because he refuses to apologize this has become a another negative for Kerry and one that will haunt him if he runs for President again in 2008.

Will this really help any Republicans running for office, Linc Chafee can only hope so.

Posted by: Lefty at November 1, 2006 12:24 PM

Kerry won't make it out of the Primaries in 2008. Somebody will go up against him and they'll win. Democrats aren't going to place their bets on Kerry again.

And refusing to apologize? What a dumbass play.

Now Democrats are demanding he apologize and are cancelling their appearances with him. How hard is it to say "It was not my intention to insult our troops, and if what I said was offensive, I apologize for not being clearer." And then he could go right back to attacking Bush over Iraq.

Except now, having said he won't apologize, he's screwed. Because Republicans are going to continue to screech for his apologies. Nothing motivates the base like indignation.

My prediction? He'll end up apologizing, and then he'll look exactly like the pandering flip-flopper the other side has always made him out to me.

Kerry needs a time-out. In the interest of Democrats everywhere.

Posted by: Chuck S. at November 1, 2006 12:43 PM

I really doubt Kerry could get the nomination. Even before this. Yeah, he's got money, but that's it.

As far as defusing situations, he is the exact worst person at doing that.

Posted by: James at November 1, 2006 12:43 PM

It doesn't matter what kind of leader he would make if he can't win, and I think he's demonstrated that he can't win.

Posted by: Jim at November 1, 2006 12:51 PM

Honestly, I sincerely hope Chafee holds on to his seat. A moderate Republican is a rare bird, and we would all benefit from keeping a moderate in office.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 12:56 PM

It's funny. I remember not being crazy about Gore in 2000 and barely wanting to vote for him even in a vote-swap. Then I remember looking at Kerry four years later and thinking "I guess I'll vote for him, but he's no Al Gore!"

I think Chafee will be safe. His opponent's campaign doesn't have much substance, and I don't think Chafee has done enough to offend his constituents.

On the other hand, I have a friend who lives in PA, where offended voters are eagerly looking forward to getting rid of Santorum.

Posted by: Julie at November 1, 2006 1:09 PM

So, Kerry apologized on Imus, saying "of course I'm sorry." and an hour later, Tony Snow is still saying Kerry needs to apologize.

Typical. Predictable.

Posted by: James at November 1, 2006 1:46 PM

This is my hope, Patti:

Gore/Obama for 8 years
Obama/Somebody else for 8 years

Then give another Democrat a chance. :-P

James and I argued over what Kerry should do this morning. I think he's an intelligent person with zero charisma, sadly, and he should never attempt jokes. Having botched that one and finding people were offended, he should have immediately said, "I never meant to offend anybody, I botched a joke because I can't tell jokes, ha ha, and I am deeply sorry to the people I offended. I did not mean what I said the way it was interpreted. I am a veteran, ... blah blah blah." Now of course the conservatives are going to pull out the soundbites they want to use and ignore the context... AGAIN. But it's better than waiting for them to demand an apology, refuse to give an apology, and then give an apology... as Chuck points out, now he's a flip-flopper. AGAIN. Argh.

It occurs to me that the press "reports" complete bullshit. They can politely point out the "stay the course" crapola, but until somebody newsworthy says something completely inflammatory for them to report, it doesn't get much news coverage. And I am happy that Democrats are not in the "say something inflammatory" line, but unfortunately Republicans are. And that's the kind of bullshit the press loves to cover.

Posted by: Maggie at November 1, 2006 2:29 PM

Well, Maggie, we'll just have to sway the course, won't we!

Julie, my friend Ken was just writing about Santorum on his blog. Here's an excerpt:

"Apparently, to get some attention, Rick Santorum has resorted to using Tolkien analogies. According to a recent statement, The 'Eye of Mordor' has been focused on Iraq, and therefore, goes the argument, it has not been focused on the USA. So, then it follows, we should all be thankful for the Iraq war since it spares us the pain of the dreaded 'Eye of Mordor.'

"For those who don't remember, back in 2003, when the whole gay marriage debate was flaming, Santorum said, 'If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.'

"Poor Rick. Maybe you could ask Gandalf to rescue you before the election?"

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 2:45 PM

I think that was covered on either the Daily Show or SNL in the last week or two. So, ten points to Santorum for his geek knowedge. Minus a couple million for being a jackass.

Posted by: Julie at November 1, 2006 2:49 PM

Oh, I don't think he wrote that himself! I'm sure his Wacko-Christo-Fundie self would never allow for the reading of fantasy--the devil's writings!

But it sure is fun to read words like that coming out of the mouth of someone with such a big stick up his tuchas.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 2:58 PM

Okay. I've read the transcript of the apology and of course he's going to take heat over it.

Okay, he's sorry he botched the joke but how tough is it for him to say:

"I want to apologize for the remarks I made the other day. I botched the joke and instead of being funny I unintentionally offended our military and military families. I'm deeply sorry for anyone that I've hurt, because although I don't support the Presidents policy, I do support the men and women who serve our country."

I mean if I can come with it, can't he or someone on his staff, a PR person? ANYONE??

I suppose as a Republican I should feel some glee over this, but I live in MA, this is MY senator. This should have been a non-issue, he could have handled it so much better.

Posted by: Lefty at November 1, 2006 3:48 PM

he could have handled it so much better.

What a familiar feeling, when it comes to John Kerry.

Frankly, I don't think this hurts Democrats. It hurts Kerry, but joke or no, Bush can go on the Limbaugh show any day he wants (unbelievably) and imply that Democrats hate the troops. He can go out there and assert that Democrats are al Qaeda candidates, terrorists will win if Democrats win... And a joke from Kerry isn't going to change that.

I agree, you and many of my friends and my wife all said it better than Kerry did. He's inept at communicating, and that's the truth.

Posted by: James at November 1, 2006 4:07 PM

He is great at debating, but lacks the ability to connect with the average Joe in an informal way. For this reason, he should eschew jokes.

I'm sure his speech writers/handlers/people told him he needs to do more regular guy things like tell jokes, and that's what happened here.

How unfortunate.

Not everyone can be Sheckie Green. Stick with what you know and do it well--like debating someone into the ground.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 1, 2006 5:40 PM

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