After remark, Kerry curtails campaigning for Democrats - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/31/06-Washington, D.C.

After remark, Kerry curtails campaigning for Democrats

Sen. John Kerry is the subject of fierce criticism after telling college students they'd get "stuck in Iraq" if they didn't study hard. Sen. John Kerry is the subject of fierce criticism after telling college students they'd get "stuck in Iraq" if they didn't study hard.
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  • 11/1/06-WASHINGTON

    Bush: Kerry Owes Troops An Apology

    Bush: Kerry Owes Troops An Apology

    President Bush joined senior Republicans attacking Sen. John Kerry for telling college students they'd "get stuck in Iraq" if they didn't study hard. Bush called the comments "insulting and shameful." Kerry hit back at the GOP attacks, saying he was criticizing President Bush and not the troops -- and that his words were being twisted for political gain.More >>

Sen. John Kerry canceled plans to campaign for fellow Democrats after the GOP began hammering him over his comments to college students about getting "stuck in Iraq."

President Bush's 2004 presidential rival -- who explained Tuesday that his comments were a "botched joke" targeting Bush -- will not appear with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bob Casey on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a Democratic official said.

"I would be surprised if you see him welcomed out there anywhere," the official said, "and certainly not in a race that is meaningful."

Strategists at both the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees told their candidates the flap is a distraction they don't need right now.

Kerry's comments provide an opportunity for Republicans to go on the offensive on national security issues -- a winning GOP strategy in 2002 and 2004 that has been blunted by the increasingly violent situation in Iraq.

The Republican National Committee took advantage of the Kerry gaffe with an ad featuring the text of quotes from Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, Sen. John McCain and Bush, supporting U.S. troops.

A video clip of Kerry's Monday remarks follows, then the caption, "John Kerry should apologize. Our soldiers are waiting."

The Democratic official said the issue doesn't appear to change the impact of any races, but it may attract more GOP supporters in close Senate contests in Missouri and Tennessee.

Appearing on radio host Don Imus' program, "Imus in the Morning," Kerry said Wednesday, "I'm going back to Washington. I'm going back to tackle this, you bet."

Kerry said the controversy was "swift boat stuff all over again," referring to the 2004 campaign issue about his service in Vietnam. "They shouldn't be allowed to do that," the Massachusetts lawmaker said.

He added, "I'm telling you, I'm not going to let these guys lie and smear, and they put their whole machine out to do it, and they ought to apologize."

Kerry's office said two House campaign appearances by the senator also have been canceled -- by mutual decision -- so as not to "allow the Republican hate machine to use Democratic candidates as their proxies in their distorted spin war in which once again they're willing to exploit brave American troops."

These include Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minnesota. Congressional candidate Bruce Braley of Iowa also announced that Kerry would not be appearing with him.

On Tuesday, Bush joined many GOP lawmakers in blasting Kerry.

"Even in the midst of a heated campaign season, there are still some things we should all be able to agree on, and one of the most important is that every one of our troops deserves our gratitude and respect," Bush said at a campaign stop in Perry, Georgia, for a congressional candidate.

Bush added that U.S. troops deserve the full support of the government.

"The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful," Bush said. "The men and women who serve in our all-volunteer armed forces are plenty smart and are serving because they are patriots -- and Sen. Kerry owes them an apology."

Bush will not face voters again, and Kerry isn't up for re-election this year.

Republicans unleashed a firestorm of criticism against Kerry after the Vietnam veteran's remarks, but Kerry said Tuesday that he made a mistake.

"The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe," the senator said. "It's a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything in America to raw politics."

A number of top Democrats said they were upset with the senator for giving the Republicans election-time ammunition -- even if the GOP was hyping the remark.

"He has already cost us one election. The guy just needs to keep his mouth shut until after the election," a top Democratic strategist said Tuesday.

Added Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, "Whatever the intent, Sen. Kerry was wrong to say what he said. He needs to apologize to our troops."

But not all Democrats concurred. Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia defended Kerry and applauded the senator for showing "our party how to fight back with the truth."

"John Kerry is a patriot who has fought tooth and nail for veterans ever since he came home from Vietnam. He has stood with his brothers in arms unlike this administration, which exploits our troops to make a political point and divide America," Cleland said in a statement.

Before Kerry's clarification, White House press secretary Tony Snow, House Majority Leader John Boehner and McCain, R-Arizona, lambasted the senator and demanded he apologize.

White House: 'An absolute insult'

"This is an absolute insult," Snow said at a daily press briefing. "Sen. Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving but also to the families of those who've given their lives in this."

Kerry fired back at the White House and the GOP, saying he was not disparaging U.S. soldiers.

"If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy," he said. "No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan and a stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq."

Kerry made the comments Monday to students at Pasadena City College in California.

He said: "You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and 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 aide: Comment 'mangled in delivery'

A Kerry aide said that the prepared statement, which had been designed to criticize Bush, "was mangled in delivery."

Kerry was supposed to say, "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. 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."

Before the announcement that the statement was botched, McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, joined his GOP colleagues in condemning the remark and demanding an apology.

But Kerry refused to relent, calling the criticism part of the "classic GOP playbook."

"I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq."

He further expressed disgust with "Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country."

Kerry added that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "owe our troops an apology" because they "misled America into war."

Bush and Cheney "have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it," the senator said.

CNN's John King and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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