Campaigning with California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides Monday, John Kerry told a crowd at Pasadena City College: "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 spokesman David Wade tells us that the senator was referring to George W. Bush -- a president not exactly known for his intellectual curiosity or academic successes -- but the GOP isn't buying it. The Republican National Committee says that Kerry, who volunteered for Vietnam after graduating from Yale, was belittling U.S. troops now serving in Iraq; John McCain has declared Kerry's comments "insensitive" and "ill-considered"; and Tony Snow said today that Kerry "not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives in this." Snow said that Democratic candidates like Jim Webb and Tammy Duckworth should be asked whether they're in accord with Kerry's "absolute insult."
Kerry will hold a press conference later today. In the meantime, he has issued a statement in which he pushes back hard. "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," Kerry said. "This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I'm sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did."
Kerry said he won't be "lectured" by a "stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium" or by "doughy Rush Limbaugh," and that he's disgusted when "Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have." If anyone owes the troops an apology, he said, it's "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who misled America into war and 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."