John Kerry: I Was for the Troops before I Was against Them

Senator John KerryIn a speech on Monday, Senator John Kerry implied that only uneducated dullards end up fighting for the U.S. in Iraq, saying “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.”

In a subsequent news conference, Kerry refused to apologize for the comment, saying that his remarks were just a “botched joke” (source). It turns out that no one is laughing, and now Kerry has the American Legion calling for an apology even as a Democrat congressman complains, “I guess Kerry wasn’t content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too” (source).

My prediction is that Senator Kerry will have to backtrack more than he has if he wants to have any kind of credibility as a presidential candidate in 2008. My guess is that he’ll either have to apologize outright, or he’ll at least have to say that he was for the troops before he was against them.


  • Scott

    Actually, he won’t have to backtrack. If you read his comment in context, you’ll see that he’s referring to President Bush and not the troops.

  • Gim Anderson

    Of course, as usual, he has a good point to make: education gives you choices; most normal people would choose not to spend there time shooting other people.

  • light

    He shouldn’t have said it. Kerry does have a way of being a little inarticulate at times. He should’ve left out the part about being “stuck in Iraq.” Being educated is great, you understand more, but being in a war zone is not something you can just say lightly without expecting public outrage.

    Thanks for the ABC link, Denny.

  • Mark

    Kerry meant exactly what he said: he thinks the brave men and women in the military must be dummies, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

    He should just try to be a real man, confess, and take the criticism, but instead he just points the finger. If Kerry can’t stand up under his own words, he should just stop talking altogether.

  • Paul

    I will be the first (or 1,000,001st) to say that Kerry’s remark was dumber than dumb. Not as bad as “The terrorists never stop thinking about how to hurt us, and neither do we,” but close.

    Actually, it is worse, because I expect better from Kerry. At least I know that Bush belongs in a helmet on the short bus.

  • Scott

    People, have you listened to or read the speech? He was saying that Bush was stupid and HIS stupidity has gotten us stuck in Iraq!

    The White House is playing smart election year politics by pretending that Kerry was referring to the troops, and Rush Limbaugh and others are taking the White House’s lead. That doesn’t make it true.

    When I hear the crap that is spewed all day on the radio and cable news, I think to myself, “Well, I’m sure most thinking people out there can see through the fog of stupidity.” But these responses are giving me cause to fear otherwise.

  • Paul


    The problem is that we’re dealing with a culture that takes everything in soundbites. And when you’re dealing with a culture that is force-fed those soundbites exactly how the powers that be want you to hear them, you get ridiculous results.

    My problem with Kerry is that he should know better. Say what you need to say, call Bush out on his own stupidity, and leave it at that. Kerry, over the course of an entire speech, might very well have been correct in his statement. But he slit his own throat by giving Rove, Snow and the rest of the GOP machine fuel for the fire.

    When you’re talking about a society that calls themselves Christians, and yet even boils down The Bible to soundclips, you’ve got to talk down to their level. When you’re talking about a society that thinks that the ultimate way to race cars is to turn left on an oval 300 times, you’ve got to talk down to their level. When you’re talking about a society that shuns Keith Jarrett for Keith Urban, you’ve got to talk down to their level.

    Kerry didn’t talk down to their level, and the only phrase they understood was, “if you don’t do well in school, you’ll end up stuck in Iraq.”

    Kerry should have known better.

    Yes, that sounds snooty and arrogant, but it’s true. An intelligent society wouldn’t be able to cope with either of these parties. But, yet, here we are.

  • Paul

    Sorry Mark, there’s no helping the truth.

    Call me arrogant all you want, there’s no denying the fact that American culture is all about the lowest common denominator. Baseball and Jazz are about the only two decent cultural things to have come out of this country, and interest in both is at an all time low.

    It makes understanding how Bush and his cronies got into power that much easier.

  • anonymous

    I have yet to see a transcript or footage the “full context” of Kerry’s comments….where can this be found, pray tell??

  • Paul

    By the way, Denny, I am shocked that you didn’t post this, from John Derbyshire of National Review:

    John Kerry is awful, and anything we can do further to degrade his political prospects is worth doing. But really, I saw a clip of him making the much-deplored remark, and it was obvious that the dimwit in Iraq that he referred to was George W. Bush, not the American soldier. It was a dumb joke badly delivered, but his meaning was plain. My pleasure in watching JK squirm is just as great as any other conservative’s, but something is owed to honesty. There’s a lot of fake outrage going round here.

    Hmmm, even the intellectually honest conservatives are saying that this isn’t all that.

    So, Denny, why weren’t you all over this? You’re a reader of National Review…

    And also, where are you on all of the little scandals that are coming out about George Allen and others? Do we really want someone who dangled his sister over Niagra Falls and beat(s) his wife in power?

    I guess as long as they vote for that gay marriage ban…

  • Brian W


    Does Denny have to comment on everything you find hypocritical from the right? Is that required to moderate a blog? Do you practice this kind of attention to detail in your posts?

    I’m hardly an apologist for him. But, come on. He’s an intellectually honest guy whose reasonable in his presentations. I wish he would reflect a little more critical thinking in some of his assessments, but even though he doesn’t reflect that in some of his posts, I can’t even say he doesn’t exercise self-evaluation; he just doesn’t always express it in his posts.

    You’re being very presumptuous and antagonistic in your statements. Brothers in Christ are kind and gracious to one another, even when rebukes are necessary. Rebukes not done in love are unfruitful and ineffective. If he’s a brother in Christ, then treat him as such.

  • Brian W


    Is that the measure of our cultural arrival; an appreciation of baseball and jazz? If they don’t quite fit our tastes, our we someone uncultured? Does an appetite for baseball and jazz indicate some higher state of evolutionary actuality? I’m surprised you didn’t say God is a baseball fan and jazz enthusiast.

    And does Denny have to comment on absolutely everything? Is that required to moderate a blog? If he doesn’t, is he somehow being disingenuous? I’m assuming he does have a real job.

    While I’ve disagree with Denny plenty of times, he’s a reasonable guy with intellectual honesty. I would love to see him express more self-evaluation and critique of his positions/views. But just because he doesn’t express them doesn’t mean he doens’t practice them. You come off very presumptuously and antagonsticly to him, and if he’s a brother in Christ, he deserves better from you. He demonstrates respect to you.

  • Paul


    1) This is what I see from the majority of the “religious right”: squeeze the entirety of the Bible down to two issues, and then make the distinction of: “conservative” good, liberal bad. It’s here in spades. It’s no longer even standing up for what is good in the world, because if it was, he’d be thrashing George Allen, the guy running for the governor’s seat in Nevada, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and Karl Rove. But he doesn’t. He simply (as far as I see it, anyway) boils it down to “conservative good, liberal bad.” And it just isn’t that simple.

    2) I would attempt to be far more light in touch in rebukes if Denny would ever delve into conversation above and beyond simply, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Again, sorry, it’s not that simple. And if you’re going to swat at Pelosi, Kerry and other members of the left while barely acknowledging that there’s a perfectly reasonable other side to the debate, then such rebukes need to be all that more blunt.

    3) the baseball and jazz question is a little tricky because I’m VERY biased. As a jazz musician, and as someone who comes from one of the most baseball obsessed cities on the planet, I am bound to let my biases show from time to time. However, there is nuance to both. And Americans have tired of nuance. Now they either want dopey, scruffy guys in cowboy hats caterwauling about minutia or rap songs about booty shaking and being a thug. And don’t get me started about the sorry state of rock music these days. The ability to hear the nuance of a Keith Jarrett, the power of a Dave Douglas or the songcrafting skills of a Duke Ellington has largely passed. And THAT has nothing to do with taste. That has everything to do with the decreased attention spans of America on the decline.

    I don’t mean to offend. Sorry if I did.

  • Brian W


    The last thing I am is an apologist for the right. Anybody who is truly “conservative” should be appalled at the current administration and legislative branch. I’m a person with Anabaptist roots, so I’m cynical of many kinds of connections between church and state. I think Christians (especially leaders) should transcend the typical political banter. Kingdom change isn’t affected at the voting booth, it’s affected by dying for others for the cause of the gospel and I wish I would hear more of that on the blogosphere.

    Bluntness doesn’t always mean effectivness. Sometimes the most effective way to bring about change is by subtly challenging thinking. So rather than blasting a person over this or that, a simple question like, “why do you think…?” challenges a person more than a stern rebuke.

    I don’t want to make a big deal about your third point, but I just would ask this: Have you listened to enough country music, or rap music to say it lacks the nuance and subtly of jazz? Would a country or rap artist agree with you, that its lacks variety and creativity? I grew up playing soccer, and I’ve heard a million times just how boring soccer is to watch. But I love it because I’m familiar with the strategy and skills. One person may see it as 90 minutes of monotony, but I don’t. Whose right? You speak as if you sit perched on top of the mountain of “knowledge and understanding” with “the” insight as to what is worthy of time and attention and what is not. It’s a very modernist view.

    It’s not that I’m offended. It just seems that your practicing exactly what you’re condemning with Denny, i.e. assured certainty, lack of perspective and an unwillingness to self-evaluate. I could be wrong though.

  • Paul


    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. As someone who has just come to the anabaptist tradition after growing up in a pentacostal church, I too find myself agreeing with both the questioning of connection between church and politics and the righteousness of pre-emptive war. I had tried to question Denny about this when he alluded to the idea that one could not be both a pacifist and a Christian in an earlier post, and he never responded. Which is a shame.

    I’m not saying that my style of bluntness is the best way to go about rebuking folks. However, it is my style. When two of my three jobs require me to make decisions in very black or white terms, it does effect the way that one comes across in all avenues of life. It may not be the best way to approach things, but at least it puts everything right out on the table. Or at least I hope it does.

    Insofar as the question about country and rap goes, I have played in both situations, and my take goes something like this: at one point in time, country, western swing and bluegrass were all fascinating forms of music. As I’ve said before to people, if you look at country music from the 30’s and 40’s, there’s virtually no difference between country music and blues music, save for the twang in the voice and color of skin. Most everything was built on I-IV-V chord patterns, and the players could downright play. To tell the truth, some of those old country players, like Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Homer and Jethro and Ernest Tubb are some of my favorites. And the deciples of those players, like Junior Brown, remain favorites of mine. But somewhere down the line, country music became pop music, and it began to lack any sense of subtlety, nuance, and/or taste. I would gladly love to see a picking contest between ANY country guitarist today and a Jeff Parker, John McLean, Bruce Foreman or Paul Bollenback.

    As for rap, there IS good rap out there. But it is so far in the minority, and it is so rarely the stuff hits are made of as to hardly be considered. I love Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Common and The Beastie Boys. However, they are not the majority of rap artists whose beats are monotonous, whose samples are completely unsurprising, and whose lyrics are absolutely pointless.

    I have played in interesting rock situations, I’ve played in interesting reggae situations, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for 60’s and 70’s R&B material. The difference between those scenarios and country and/or rap is the fact that there are far fewer cliches to get caught up in stylistically, and that the best composers in all of those situations (not to mention jazz, obviously) wrote and played music that was thoroughly interesting to play and hear. Find me a country artist who is as nearly as harmonically or melodically sophisticated as Stevie Wonder or Prince at his best, and I will gladly eat my hat. The only problem is that the very essence of country music would run counterintuitively against such a notion in the first place. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson, but I do honestly believe that the lack of interest in America in Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Dave Holland and Brad Mehldau is very telling about the state of cultural meltdown that our country is going through right now.

    Or, I can put it in these very odd terms: where is jazz most appreciated? Japan and Europe. Where are Math and Science scores the highest? Japan and Europe. One of my teachers once told me that music, and especially jazz, is math set to sound. Seeing the correlations between societies that dig jazz and the societies who will be giving the world our mathematicians and scientists for generations to come fleshes that out, as far as I can tell, anyway.

    Brian, to conclude, I may come off as brash and unwilling to self-evaluate, but let me be the first to say that I welcome correction when it is necessary. And I will be the first to say that it is necessary often.

  • light

    I tried looking for a transcript but so far have not found one. It’s like after he said that stupid statement, his message was negated completely, that’s ridiculous.

    I have two posts about Kerry on my site.

  • Billy

    I don’t agree with Paul on many of the issues discussed on this blog, however he is absolutely correct about two things:

    1) We live in a “soundbite” culture in which we often take comments from political figures and celebrities out of context, resulting in unfavorable press for that individual. I believe John Kerry’s comments were taken out of context and his comments were meant as a jab at President Bush. What that says about his character is a whole other discussion.

    2) The state of American music is attrocious (especially country music). Radio stations and music television stations would rather play talentless actors and models (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, etc.)rather than quality musicians with below average marketing strategies. How many awful singles do Big and Rich have to put out before we stop listening to main-stream music altogether?

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