It's No Joke

You have to hand it to John Kerry. It takes a lot of bravado to — whether intentionally or not — insult the men and women of the American military in the plainest of terms, and then insist that those he’d insulted “misinterpreted” his comments. Kerry is aghast that Americans would consider his comments insulting. When he told students in California that they better study hard or they would “get stuck in Iraq,” he insists he was not referring to the military, rather he was joking about President Bush.

How anyone who understands the English language could read the simple words uttered by John Kerry and conclude that this was a joke is hard to see. In fact, if you watch the tape of Kerry delivering the comments, the students behind him appeared stone faced at the “botched joke.” Nevertheless, Kerry insists it was so and, unfortunately, his revisions appear to be gaining traction in a way that he may not personally desire, but that his party should be thankful for.

This week, late night comics have been having a field day with the Kerry “botched joke.” The Kerry flap was the subject of David Letterman’s famed Top Ten List this week — Top Ten Kerry Excuses. The list had such gems as, “So I botched a joke, Letterman does it every night,” and “Hey, it was still funnier than most of the jokes on this list.” Not to be outdone, Jay Leno chimed in about Kerry’s “foot in mouth syndrome” to the laughter of his studio audience.

Perhaps the funniest joke about the “botched joke” came from an unlikely source, the U.S. troops. A group of American GIs gained internet fame this week when they posed for a picture in Iraq with a giant sign reading “Halp us jon carry — we R stuk here n Irak.”
An anonymous internet blogger who writes for a conservative website called Influence Peddler made an astute observation about the GI’s sidesplitting humor.

“I think this picture may hurt the GOP, in that we are helped when people realize that John Kerry is a leader in the Democratic Party, and he holds offensive views,” writes the blogger. “This picture however, tends to make it plainer that John Kerry is a joke, who almost never ought to be taken seriously. And if enough voters think that Kerry shouldn’t be taken seriously, they are less likely to regard it as important to come out and vote for his opposition.”

Each time a late night comedian further reinforces the absurdity of the “botched joke” the real substance of this event becomes further lost. Reinforcing the late night comics is the mainstream media, where most commentators seem to believe the Kerry “botched joke” excuse.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is a lead Kerry apologist. “The context is he’s trashing Bush for not having studied the region of the Middle East,” said Matthews this week on his show Hardball. Kerry was criticizing Bush, continued Matthews, for “not being prepared for what we face over there, the Sunnis and the Shias and everyone else fighting with each other, being stuck in that quicksand.”

Well if that is indeed what Kerry meant, perhaps he should have said that.

The tragedy here is that as the Kerry caricature grows to ridiculously laughable proportions (deservedly so) the fact that this was a rare political moment when a politician said what he really thinks is lost.

“During a Vietnam-era run for Congress three decades ago John Kerry said he opposed a volunteer Army because it would be dominated by the underprivileged, be less accountable and be more prone to ‘the perpetuation of war crimes’” writes the Associated Press in a report this week. “Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran who turned against the war, made the observations in answers to a 1972 candidate questionnaire from a Massachusetts peace group.”

So whether Kerry did indeed “botch a joke” as he claims or he accidentally let his true colors show is a matter that is up for debate. But it is entirely reasonable for observers to take his words at face value, especially given the fact this is not the first time he has expressed these kinds of views about the military. But someone should inform the junior Senator from Massachusetts that not only are those views insulting and demeaning to those who serve in the military, they are wrong.

The Heritage Foundation’s Tim Kane recently conducted a study in which he concludes, “With regard to income, education, race, and regional background, the all-volunteer force is representative of our nation and meets standards set by Congress and the Department of Defense. In contrast to the patronizing slanders of antiwar critics, recruit quality is increasing as the war in Iraq continues.”

Perpetuating a tired old 1970s peacenik myth is insulting. And no, it is not funny, and it certainly is no joke.