John Kerry has issued an apology, a day after insisting he would never apologize for his joke about George Bush (if you can read his mind) or American troops (if you quote him accurately). Here’s the statement in its entirety:
As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.
I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.
It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.
Well, at least he said something, but this is hardly an expression of regret. His statement wasn’t misinterpreted; even he admits that he issued a “poorly stated joke”, which means Kerry failed to either write it clearly or read it properly. It’s the non-apology apology that politicians have accustomed themselves to making when they’ve thoroughly embarrassed their colleagues — and Democrats today made their displeasure known.
As it is, I’m inclined to believe that he meant to slam Bush, but screwed up the words. However, the words as he delivered them communicated something completely different, and he still won’t acknowledge his responsibility for his own failure. Other politicians would likely have received some benefit of the doubt, but Kerry’s track record of criticism for military personnel under fire added to the perception that he was at it again, another point Kerry refuses to acknowledge.
He can’t have it both ways. He can’t argue that Republicans are intellectually inferior and then blame them for not reading his mind. He can’t admit he botched the joke and then get mad when his words get interpreted in some manner other than he intended. Kerry’s insistence that the entire episode was nothing more than a Republican smear campaign ignores that no one paid much attention to him in this election cycle, and that a grand conspiracy against Democrats this year would have been pretty unlikely to target a Senator who isn’t running for re-election for another two years.
As it is, though, the story’s over. It made for some interesting fireworks, but it won’t do much to move the needle in either direction this year. The only benefit that will come from it is that we can all be spared the specter of another Kerry presidential run in 2008, a benefit that will be enjoyed by both political parties. Republicans will be better served getting back to the economy and national security, and let Kerry huff and puff his way back to oblivion. With only five campaigning days before the election, the GOP has little enough time to push its message.