Kerry apol­o­gizes for in­sult­ing troops, leaves cam­paign trail

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Charles Hurt

Sen. John Kerry bowed to bi­par­ti­san pres­sure on Nov. 1 and apol­o­gized for in­sult­ing U.S. troops ear­lier in the week when he sug­gested that a lack of wits and poor aca­demic per­for­mance had landed them on the front lines of Iraq.

“Is­in­cere­lyre­gret­that­my­words were mis­in­ter­preted to wrongly im­plyany­thingneg­a­tive­about­those in uni­form, and I per­son­ally apol­o­gize to any ser­vice mem­ber, fam­ily mem­ber, or Amer­i­can who was of­fended,” he said in a state­ment is­sued af­ter both Democrats and Repub­li­cans re­buked him for the com­ments.

The apol­ogy came af­ter Demo­crat­ic­cam­paign­eventswith­the2004 pres­i­den­tial­nom­i­neew­ereabruptly scrubbed in Philadel­phia, Min­nesota and Iowa. Demo­cratic leg­is­la­torsSens.Hil­laryRod­hamClin­ton of New York and Robert Me­nen­dez of New Jer­sey and Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. of Ten­nessee also crit­i­cized Mr. Kerry. Even Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man HowardDean,nos­tranger­to­gaffes, crit­i­cized the re­mark.

“Sen­a­tor Kerry’s re­marks were poor­ly­wordedand­just­plain­stupid,” saidJonTester,aDemocra­trun­ning in a tight race against in­cum­bent Sen.Con­radBurnsinMon­tana.“He owe­sourtroop­sandtheir­fam­i­liesan apol­ogy.”

Mr. Kerry, who lost in 2004 to Pres­i­dent Bush, says he’s still con­sid­er­ing an­other run for the White House in 2008 and had been cam­paign­ing heav­ily for Democrats across­the­coun­tryrun­ning­forCongress. In one sen­tence, Mr. Kerry man­aged­tochangeth­en­ation­al­con­ver­sa­tion from the Repub­li­can han­dling of the war in Iraq to de­mands that he apol­o­gize to the troops.

“You know,” Mr. Kerry said on Oct. 30 at Pasadena City Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia, “ed­u­ca­tion, if you make the­mostofit,yous­tudy­hard,youdo yourhome­workandy­oumakean­ef­fort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Ra­dio host Don Imus, who had Mr.Ker­ry­on­his­pro­gra­monNov.1, im­plored­him­tos­itout­therestofthe elec­tion, which most ob­servers pre­dict will be a boon for Democrats.

“Please stop it, stop talk­ing,” he saidaf­ter­in­tro­duc­ingth­e­ju­niors­e­n­a­tor­fromMas­sachusetts.“Go­home, geton­the­bike,gowind­surf­ing,any­thing. Stop it. You’re go­ing to ruin this.”

Mr. Kerry in­sisted that the cam­paign events were can­celed at his urg­ing, but at least one can­di­date — Bruce Bra­ley in Iowa — said he asked Mr. Kerry to pull out.

“I’m com­ing back to Wash­ing­ton to­day so that I’m not a dis­trac­tion,” Mr. Kerry said. “I don’t want to be a dis­trac­tion to th­ese cam­paigns.’

No mat­ter whose idea it was for Mr. Kerry to re­treat, said one de­lighted Repub­li­can on Capi­tol Hill, “He’s cut­ting and run­ning from the cam­paign trail, af­ter learn­ing he was­forhis­com­ments­be­fore­he­was against them.”

Mr. Kerry said the in­sult was the re­sult of a “botched” joke.

“If that’s jok­ing, he needs to work on his punch line,” said James H. Webb Jr., the Vir­ginia Demo­crat run­ning for the Se­nate.

White House spokesman Tony Snow also was skep­ti­cal.

“Sen­a­tor Kerry’s words were pretty straight­for­ward,” he said in re­spon­se­tore­peat­edques­tions­from re­porters. “If you lis­ten to the tone of voice in which he said them, it’s hard to con­strue them as a joke. He didn’t sound like he was try­ing to make fun­nies.”

In his apol­ogy, Mr. Kerry said he in­tend­ed­to­takeaswi­peatMr.Bush for get­ting the U.S. “stuck in Iraq.”

But Mr. Kerry’s ini­tial re­sponse was to at­tack his at­tack­ers as “right wing nut-jobs.” At a press con­fer­ence in Seat­tle, he an­grily said, “I apol­o­gize to no one for my crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent and of his bro­ken pol­icy.”

When the “right wing nut-jobs” were joined by many Democrats out cam­paign­ing, Mr. Kerry switched tacks.

A Kerry spokes­woman said the sen­a­tor’s pre­pared re­marks had called for him to say: “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. Just ask Pres­i­dent Bush.”

That par­tic­u­lar approach is one that he and other Democrats gen­er­ously em­ployed dur­ing the 2004 cam­paign, por­tray­ing Mr. Bush as an in­tel­lec­tual light­weight who didn’t be­long in the Oval Of­fice.

But aca­demic records ob­tained last year by the Bos­ton Globe re­vealed that Mr. Bush ac­tu­ally had a higher grade point av­er­age than Mr. Kerry did dur­ing their time at Yale. In his fresh­man year, Mr. Kerry got four D’s in the ten cour­ses he took.

Jerry Seper and Christina Bellantoni con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle, which is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

As­so­ci­ated Press

‘Stop talk­ing’: Sen. John Kerry was asked by ra­dio host Don Imus to stay out of the news un­til af­ter the midterms.

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