Kerry’s Foot Firmly in Mouth

The words that people say are seldom considered outside of the context of the speaker who utters them. Speaking at Pasadena City College in California, Senator John Kerry and the former Democratic nominee for President 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.” Was Kerry saying that the American military is composed of the least educated among us or suggesting that President Bush’s lack of education is the reason he decided to go into Iraq? The plain meaning of the words suggests he was criticizing American troops, but it could have been awkward phraseology.

Part of Kerry’s problem is that he has a long history of saying pejorative things about American troops. During Vietnam he claimed that American troops had committed war crimes and that such crimes were wide spread. In 2005, Kerry charged American troops with “terrorizing kids and children” in Iraq. Moreover, the notion that American GIs come from those who do not do well in school arose during the Vietnam era when college students received draft deferments and others were conscripted. More than a few young men used college as a means of avoiding military service. Of course, this state of affairs has not existed since the decades-old all-volunteer army began. Perhaps Kerry’s mind set in firmed stuck in the 1960s.

Of course, Kerry could have, as he said, been making a bad joke about Bush’s intelligence and the fact that we are in Iraq. Jokes should not have to be explained, but no one ever claimed that Kerry has a talent for comedy. Ironically, Bush’s grades at Yale were at least as good as Kerry’s, but Kerry’s certainly judges himself Bush’s intellectual superior. Certainly, this conviction is what makes Kerry’s loss to Bush in the 2004 presidential election so frustrating to Kerry.

If Kerry is as smart as he believes he would not be making these clumsy statements. Nonetheless, he did manage to worm himself into a world of trouble during his Presidential bid with clumsy or perhaps revealing statements. With regard to a bill to support American troops in Iraq, he told an audience “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

Without looking into his soul, it is not possible to know for certain if Kerry was criticizing the troops or making a joke about Bush. However, it can be said with high confidence that he was probably trying to pander to his audience. That is his real problem.

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