From the New York Times:
Kerry and G.O.P. Spar Over Iraq Remarks
By DAVID STOUT
Published: October 31, 2006
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31
Debate over the Iraq war seemed to reach a new intensity today, with Republicans accusing Senator John Kerry of insulting rank-and-file American troops and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, lashing back at some of his tormentors as “assorted right-wing nut jobs.”
The latest flap, over what Mr. Kerry said on the West Coast on Monday, was another example of the heated rhetoric surrounding the war issue as the Congressional elections approach.
President Bush said Monday that a Democratic triumph in the races for the House and Senate would amount to a victory for terrorists.
Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate who is believed to be considering another run for the White House in 2008, set the stage for bitter back-and-forth as he addressed a gathering at Pasadena City College in California.
The senator, who was campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides, opened with several one-liners, joking at one point that President Bush had lived in Texas but now “lives in a state of denial.”
Then, Mr. Kerry said: “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.”
Those remarks were denounced by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and, like Mr. Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, as well as a group of House Republicans.
“Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country’s call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education,” Mr. McCain said today.
Mr. McCain said any suggestion that only the poorly educated would agree to serve in Iraq is “an insult to every soldier serving in combat.”
Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, wrote a letter to Mr. Kerry in which he called for “a clear and simple apology, without caveat or explanation.” The letter was signed by 18 other House Republicans.
And the White house spokesman, Tony Snow, asserted that Mr. Kerry’s speech “sort of fits a pattern” of criticizing American troops in Iraq. “This is an absolute insult, and I’m a little astonished that he didn’t figure it out already,” Mr. Snow said. “If I say something stupid, I apologize as quickly as possible.”
But if anyone should apologize, Mr. Kerry said, it is President Bush and his administration officials who started the ill-conceived war. He said his remarks had been distorted and called the criticism directed at him the work of “assorted right-wing nut jobs and right-wing talk show hosts.”
“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,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” Mr. Kerry went on. “It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.”
At a televised news conference today in Seattle, Mr. Kerry said he was “disgusted” by the Republican attacks, which he noted were coming at the end of a bloody month in Iraq. “Sadly, this is the best this administration can do,” he said.
Mr. Kerry did not mention Mr. McCain in his statement, although at the news conference he said Mr. McCain should seek an apology from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney if he wants an apology from anyone.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. McCain, separated by party and political philosophy but united by their experiences in Vietnam combat, have been described before as having a friendly relationship. Mr. McCain is also viewed as a potential rival in the 2008 presidential race.
Mr. Bush stepped up the language on Iraq on Monday while campaigning for Republican candidates in Georgia and Texas. “However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this,” he said. “The terrorists win and America loses.”
Part of Mr. Kerry’s outrage may arise from memories of 2004, when a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised allegations, never substantiated, that he had exaggerated his wartime exploits. Some political observers thought Mr. Kerry and his allies were too slow to strike back at his attackers.
This time, Mr. Kerry did not wait. “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,” he said in his statement. At his news conference, he accused Republicans of creating “straw men” because “they’re afraid to debate real men.”