I’m Sorry You Didn’t Understand My Genius, Part 37B

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.

BYOB — Bring Your Own Burqa

Iran has offered a premium to travel agents to induce Americans to visit the mullahcracy that routinely calls our country the Great Satan. Every American delivered to Iran will gain agents $20 cash:

Iran will offer cash incentives to travel agencies to encourage Western tourists to visit the country, giving a premium for Americans, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The Islamic republic’s political leadership has been trying to reach out to ordinary Americans to show that a standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions is with the Bush administration — not U.S. citizens.
The latest initiative comes as the United Nations Security Council deliberates a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for its disputed nuclear program.
“Iran’s tourism department will pay $20 per person to those who attract European or American tourists to the country,” the agency on Tuesday quoted Mohammed Sharif Malakzadeh, deputy head of the department, as saying.
Visitors from other countries would earn travel agents $10 per tourist, Malakzadeh said.

What would Americans do in the Islamic Republic — visit the Teheran embassy where Ahmadinejad and his cohorts kidnapped and held hostage dozens of Americans? Take a tour of the new nuclear power plants? Act as human shields?
This seems as silly as the notion of direct flights between Iran and the US. We do not want to engage Iran economically while they threaten Israel with destruction and develop nuclear weapons. We want them to stop both and end their support for Islamist terrorism. Until they start acting responsibly, direct flights and tourist trade should not exist. Americans inclined to visit a country that reviles us as demons and holds seminars on a world free of the same people whose tourist dollars they now crave should really have their heads examined.

Kerry’s Schedule Starts To Lighten Up (Updated)

John Kerry may have some spare time to spend with the family. After his ridiculous comments on Monday and the equally ridiculous explanation on Tuesday, Iowa Congressional candidate Bruce Braley has asked Kerry to stay away from their scheduled campaign appearance this week:

A Democratic Congressional candidate from Iowa is canceling a campaign event later this week with Senator John Kerry.
Bruc[e] Braley says Kerry’s recent comments about the Iraq war were inappropriate.
Braley is running against Republican Mike Whalen in Iowa’s First District congressional race. It’s a contest considered to be one of the most competitive House races in the country.

Will we see more of this? Kerry has scheduled events here in Minnesota for Tim Walz and a party-building event for the DFL (Minnesota’s Democrats) today. Tonight he goes to Pennsylvania to campaign for Bob Casey, Jr, and the Braley campaign event was scheduled for tomorrow.
Will Walz withdraw his invitation to Kerry as well? Will Casey?
UPDATE: I’m still pretty torn on this controversy. Had Kerry simply come out yesterday and said, Whoops, my bad — I left out a couple of key words from the punchline and left the wrong impression — my apologies!, I think the entire story would have died immediately. However, in his typically tone-deaf manner, he decided to brand the entire incident a Republican smear, despite the fact that he had been quoted accurately.
Now he’s left with the argument that he misquoted himself while trying to show off his supposed intellectual superiority over George Bush, and that it’s all Bush’s fault despite being Kerry’s intellectual inferior. Really, no one could have scripted a more hilarious scenario, and the longer Kerry continues this line of defense/offense, the more ridiculous a figure he becomes. It demonstrates clearly that the “I was for the $87 billion before I was against it” gaffe was no fluke.
UPDATE II: Kerry won’t be campaigning with Tim Walz or the DFL, either. The AP reports that Kerry has canceled all of his Minnesota visits:

U.S. Sen. John Kerry canceled a campaign visit here in the wake of a controversy over remarks he made about students and the war in Iraq, according to a spokeswoman for congressional candidate Tim Walz.
“He wants to make sure the campaign is about the issues we’ve been talking about the last two years,” the spokeswoman, Meredith Salsbery, said of Kerry’s decision. “It’s important to him that we are able to do that.”
Kerry was to appear at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Minnesota State, Mankato, with 1st Congressional District candidate Tim Walz. Walz will still appear at the event, Salsbery said. Walz is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn.

This seems out of character with Kerry’s professed passion for fighting back against Republican smears. Perhaps other Democrats managed to talk some sense into Kerry overnight.

Why Nancy Pelosi Thinks Alcee Hastings Is Qualified

Over the last few weeks, I have pointed out that the man Nancy Pelosi wants to head the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats win control of the House, Alcee Hastings, got impeached and removed for corruption from the federal bench by a Democratic Congress twenty years ago. For a potential Speaker who likes to talk about “draining the swamp” of Republican corruption, giving a disgraced judge the gavel to a committee critical to national security seems not just strange but dangerous in a time of war. However, Ruth Marcus tells a story in her Washington Post column today that explains Pelosi’s enthusiasm for Hastings:

The evidence against Hastings is circumstantial, but it’s too much to explain away: a suspicious pattern of telephone calls between Hastings and Borders at key moments in the case; Borders’s apparent insider knowledge of developments in the criminal case; Hastings’s appearance at a Miami hotel, as promised by Borders as a signal that the judge had agreed to the payoff; a cryptic telephone conversation between the two men that appears to be a coded discussion of the bribe arrangement.
Consider: Hastings, a federal judge, gets word from Borders’s lawyer that Borders has been arrested for conspiring to bribe him and that the FBI wants to interview him. Instead of calling the FBI agents whose names and numbers he’s been given, Hastings leaves his hotel without checking out and heads to the airport outside Baltimore instead of National, where there’s an earlier flight. At BWI, Hastings calls his girlfriend, has her call him back at a different pay phone, then asks her to leave the house to call him from a pay phone, then calls her back from a different pay phone. He doesn’t speak to the FBI until they track him down at the girlfriend’s house later that night.

So that’s why Pelosi wants him to lead Intelligence — he has so much experience at clandestine work!
Marcus scolds Pelosi in her column for allowing Hastings to gain control of the key House panel for nothing more than venal political gain within her party. Marcus covered the trials of Hastings, and although the criminal trial resulted in an acquittal, she strongly believes that the judicial review panel and the Democratic-controlled House and Senate reached the correct conclusion. She reminds readers that the other figure in the case, William Borders, went to prison for the bribery scheme, and also refused to testify to Congress, earning him more time behind bars.
And why is Pelosi so dead set on Hastings? Marcus confirms what I wrote earlier; the Congressional Black Caucus will not support her for the speakership if she doesn’t select Hastings. Jane Harman, the current ranking member of the committee, got that slot from Pelosi when the Minority Leader reinstated her seniority and passed over Sanford Bishop, another black representative. They want the same thing done now for Hastings in reverse, regardless of his past corruption, and Pelosi doesn’t have the moral courage to refuse them.
The CBC’s spokesperson told the Post that its first order of business is to protect its members. Apparently, that takes precedence over protecting America, and the CBC views Intel as just another means to divide spoils. They also insist that Hastings has the knowledge and the experience in intelligence work. If they’re referring to his clandestine work, they certainly have a point.
This is what a Democratic majority will bring.

Bono And Bandmates Closet Conservatives?

U2’s Bono has made a name for himself as an anti-poverty activist, traveling the world to get Western governments to reduce barriers to trade with poverty-stricken African nations and demanding large outlays of aid to these same nations. He has argued that the wealthiest nations have shared little of their largesse with those in need. Bono has actively worked with political players of all ideologies to get a bigger financial commitment to end world hunger.
It’s somewhat ironic, as Timothy Noah points out in Slate, that Bono and his bandmates have decided to relocate their publishing business to avoid paying taxes:

A familiar paradox about leftist celebrities in the entertainment industry is that their embrace of progressivism almost never includes a wholehearted embrace of progressive taxation, i.e., the principle that the richer you get, the larger the percentage of your income you ought to pay in taxes. The latest example is U2’s Bono, a committed and unusually sophisticated anti-poverty crusader who is taking surprisingly little heat for the decision by his band, U2, to relocate its music-publishing business from Ireland to the Netherlands in order to shelter its songwriting royalties from taxation. …
“Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market … that’s a justice issue,” Bono said at a prayer breakfast attended by President Bush, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and various members of Congress earlier this year. Preaching this sort of thing has made Bono a perennial candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued:

Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents … that’s a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents … that’s a justice issue.

And relocating your business offshore in order to avoid paying taxes to the Republic of Ireland, where poverty is higher than in almost any other developed nation? Bono’s hypocrisy seems even more naked when you consider that Ireland is a tax haven for artists.

Well, it used to be a tax haven. Perhaps tired of having the highest poverty rate in the developed world, Ireland put a cap on tax-free income for artists at a reasonable level of $319,000. Within months, U2 had relocated to the Netherlands, which has a more favorable tax climate.
Conservatives at this point might say, “So what?” After all, we insist that lower taxes creates wealth by keeping the money in the hands of people who can create jobs and invest in new businesses. Creating new taxes, as Ireland did, will probably kill investments and lead to greater poverty, not less. All of this is true. However, Bono has made it his mission to get governments to spend the same tax dollars on aid that his band now wants to avoid paying — more than just a minor bit of hypocrisy.
We’re all for lower taxes, and we applaud people who find ways to legally structure their finances in order to minimize their tax burden. However, when these same people then transform into scolds of Western civilization for selfishness and demand that government confiscates more money in order to transfer wealth to corrupt and dictatorial states abroad, their credibility rightly suffers.

Bush Gets A Win On North Korea

The Bush administration found vindication yesterday when North Korea agreed to return to six-party talks without any concessions from the US. The news of Kim Jong-Il’s capitulation came through China, whose influence undoubtedly led to the breakthrough:

North Korea agreed Tuesday to resume nuclear disarmament talks, a first sign of easing tensions since the country’s nuclear test this month. But the talks have dragged on inconclusively for three years, and the chances for rolling back the country’s now-proven nuclear capability remained uncertain.
China announced that six-nation talks would reconvene shortly after a hiatus of more than a year, and an American envoy in Beijing said they could take place in November or December.
The agreement was a procedural victory for Beijing, which scrambled to reopen a diplomatic channel even as it joined the United States and other international powers in supporting United Nations sanctions on North Korea after the Oct. 9 test.
But Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has participated in multiple rounds of talks over the past several years while he accelerated his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and some analysts suspect that he agreed to restart talks now to forestall tough enforcement of sanctions and to persuade China and South Korea to ease his government’s growing economic woes.

The New York Times tries throwing a lot of cold water on this diplomatic victory, but it’s undeniable. Critics of the Bush administration had called for the US to lift sanctions on Pyongyang’s banking activities after Kim started massively counterfeiting US currency, and to agree to bilateral talks.
The White House refused on both counts. Kim has pumped as much as a billion dollars in fake $100 bills into the world market in its desperate attempt to create hard-currency stocks for themselves, so we’re unlikely to avert our eyes while he compounds the dilution of our money. And as to bilateral talks, none of the critics have answered Bush’s question: what could North Korea request in bilateral talks that they could not in the six-party regional talks?
With Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, the Bush administration has a diplomatic and economic encirclement of Kim that actually could crush him. Without engaging the regional players, Kim would be able to taunt us without fear of consequences. After all, we don’t trade with Kim now, and he knows we will not start a new war with him. He had no risk in bilateral talks. But that wasn’t true with China and Russia, both of which keep Kim afloat, especially China. He went too far over the past few months, embarrassing Beijing and making them look impotent — and the Chinese must have cracked the whip good the past two weeks, looking at the results.
The Bush administration still has a long road to travel with North Korea. The US needs to stay firm on verifiable disarmament, a concept not robustly pursued in the Agreed Framework, and that will require some intrusive inspections. If given with the appropriate incentives, the multilateral negotations could result in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It could also result in more game-playing by Kim, which is why verification plays such a critical role in the negotiations.
However, people need to recognize that we would not have any leverage at all had the Bush administration taken advice from its critics. Bush knew he needed sufficient leverage to get North Korean compliance, and he didn’t see the point in making useless gestures to a tinpot dictator just to get a few decent headlines in the American press. It’s called leadership, and Bush just provided a clear example.

Provocateur Ejected For Provoking

A man who bragged about becoming a provocateur now claims victimization when he fulfilled the promises he made on his website. Mike Stark, a liberal blogger and a law student, tried to rush George Allen and yelled a question about Allen purportedly spitting on his first wife. Hot Air posted the video last night, and the AP reports on his intentions:

Mike Stark, a liberal blogger and first-year University of Virginia law student, approached Allen at an event in Charlottesville, loudly asking, “Why did you spit at your first wife, George?” according to witnesses.
Three men, all wearing blue Allen lapel stickers, immediately grabbed Stark, dragged him backward and slung him to the carpet outside a hotel meeting room, according to video captured by WVIR-TV in Charlottesville.
Allen’s campaign said in a news release that Stark “aggressively went after Senator Allen … screaming that he answer inappropriate questions.” …
In a Monday posting on “Calling All Wingnuts,” the blog Stark publishes, he hinted that he would attempt to provoke Allen before the TV cameras.
“Im also trying to `Roger and Me’ George Allen whenever I can,” Stark wrote, referring to director Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary in which he repeatedly tried to confront former General Motors’ chief executive Roger Smith about the company’s downsizing.

Given American political history, someone who rushes up and onto the backs of campaign workers while yelling at a candidate is going to get screened off, and that’s exactly what the men tried to do with Stark. He tried to push his way past them, and that’s when they shoved him away, tackling him when he tried to push through them again, shouting at Allen all the while.
And what was so important? Stark wanted to know if Allen had ever spit on his first wife.
Oh, puh-leeeeeeze. Obviously, Stark has an excellent career ahead of him chasing ambulances and advertising for slip-and-fall con artists on late-night television. I guess the Left thinks that they need to defend the honor of Allen’s ex-wife, and that the 22-year-old divorce somehow has relevance to the Senate campaign.
Allen’s ex-wife does not agree:

Allen’s former wife, Anne Waddell, issued a statement calling Stark’s question “a baseless, cheap shot.”
Waddell, who lives in California, said she and Allen divorced more than 22 years ago, and because it was a personal matter they sealed the divorce records.

Jon Henke has a few links to Stark’s posts at Daily Kos at the AllenHQ blog. It seems very clear that Stark has nothing better to offer Virginians than childish taunts and personal attacks, just the kind of electoral tactics that Virginians have witnessed in abundance in this cycle. Stark wants to emulate Michael Moore, but at least in Roger and Me, Moore had a reasonable motivation; he wanted to confront Roger Smith about factory closures in Flint that put a lot of people out of work. Stark wants to know about marital spittle.
This would be a great parody of Leftist activism, if Stark hadn’t actually done it. Virginians can look at this and determine which party they believe represents them best. If it’s the Marital Spittle Party, then apparently James Webb is the candidate. Otherwise, Virginians may want to stick with George Allen and the Republicans.