US Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, speaks in support of California
gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at a rally held at Pasadena City
College in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, Oct. 30, 2006. [AP]
WASHINGTON - US Democratic Senator John Kerry said Wednesday he was sorry
about a "botched joke" that drew election-year fire from President George W.
Bush and other Republicans who accused him of insulting US troops in Iraq.
Kerry reiterated the target of his joke
was Bush, who immediately seized on the senator's remarks to rally Republican
supporters ahead of Tuesday's elections, in which the party's control of
Congress is at risk.
said he was returning to Washington from a trip campaigning on behalf of
Democratic congressional candidates because he did not want to be "a
A day after rejecting calls to apologize for his remarks, Kerry, appearing on
the "Imus in the Morning" radio show on MSNBC, declared: "I said it was a
botched joke. Of course, I'm sorry about a botched joke."
While campaigning in California on Monday, Kerry told a college crowd: "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."
Kerry's office said the senator had misread his prepared remarks. They said
he had intended 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."
The White House had pressed Kerry yesterday to apologize, saying he "put
gasoline on the fire" of an already sizzling midterm election campaign.
"Senator Kerry may have botched the line, but what he said was insulting to
the troops, and what he ought to say is, 'Look, I botched the line, but I'm
sorry for giving offence," press secretary Tony Snow said on CBS's "The Early
"We're not the one who whipped this up into a big issue. Senator Kerry did so
yesterday," said Snow, appearing the day after President George W. Bush and
Kerry traded their harshest accusations since the 2004 presidential race. Bush
accused the Massachusetts Democrat of troop-bashing and Kerry called the
president's men hacks who are "willing to lie" to gloss over problems with the
The fiery exchange evoked memories of 2004, injecting more adrenaline into
what has been a taut midterm election fight between Republicans trying to cling
to control of Congress and Democrats striving to win it back.
As Republicans demanded that Kerry apologize, a Democratic congressional
candidate in a close race in Iowa cancelled a campaign event with Kerry, saying
the senator's comments were inappropriate. And Kerry cancelled an appearance for
a Democratic candidate in Minnesota.
Bush, campaigning in Georgia, said Kerry's statement was "insulting and it is
Kerry, who is considering another run for the White House in 2008, told a
hastily called news conference, "I apologize to no one for my criticism of the
president and of his broken policy."
But he also said the comment was "a botched joke about the president and the
president's people, not about the troops ... and they know that's what I was