After today, CNN might have to change the “C” in its initials to a “K”, as the cable network has been shilling for Senator John Kerry for hours.
By now, most of you are aware of an extraordinarily demeaning statement made by the junior senator from Massachusetts yesterday in front of a group of college students in California as reported by NewsBusters (video here). Well, some of CNN’s finest have been working the room so to speak trying to convince the American people that this was all a mistake, and that Kerry meant this as a jab at the president.
Correspondent Ed Henry filed a report Tuesday afternoon (video here) in which he stated, “Senator Kerry is insisting that he was referring to the president there, not to actual U.S. troops in Iraq, when he referred to 'getting stuck in Iraq.'" After playing a video clip of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s comments on the subject, and reading from some of Kerry’s own remarks from earlier in the day (transcript and video to follow), Henry said the following: “What's really going on here, besides the back and forth, is Senator Kerry is dying for the opportunity to go head to head with the president again. And that's why he's diving right in here with these -- this counterattack.”
Fascinating. So, Kerry insults America’s troops on Monday, and on Tuesday, CNN is advancing the notion that this all a strategy for Kerry to go “head to head with the president again.” Isn't that special?
Earlier in the day, Kerry held a press conference on the subject (video here). Before it began, anchor Kyra Phillips teed up correspondent Andrea Koppel thusly: “Now, CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel joins me on the phone with more of these controversial comments including what the Kerry camp is doing to recover. Andrea, you're actually saying that a Kerry aide said that he actually mangled his prepared statement and didn't mean to say that?” This is how Koppel amazingly responded:
Right, Kyra. According to Kerry's Communication Director David Wade, he said that the senator has misspoke during what were prepared remarks in Pasadena. He said that what Senator Kerry had meant to say in those prepared remarks were 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 stuck in a war in Iraq according to David Wade, this was a swipe at President Bush. It was designed to criticize President Bush who Kerry has done repeatedly ever since he threw his hat into the ring in '04. Kerry believes that President Bush hadn't learned the lessons of history, and that is why, in Kerry's opinion, the U.S. is mired in a losing war in Iraq.
Unbelievable. Can you imagine a Republican making statements such as this right before an election, and CNN helping to explain it so? What follows is a full transcript of Ed Henry’s report, the introduction to Kerry’s press conference, and the entire press conference.
ED HENRY: Well, Senator Kerry is insisting that he was referring to the president there, not to actual U.S. troops in Iraq, when he referred to "getting stuck in Iraq."
But that's not sitting well with Tony Snow. He jumped all over this and said that Senator Kerry owes an apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Extraordinary things happened since September 11, which is a lot of people, America's finest, have willingly agreed to volunteer their services in a mission they know is dangerous, but is also important.
And, you know, Senator 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. This is an absolute insult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, that sparked Senator Kerry to put out this statement, quote, "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. It disgusts me that these Republican hawks who have never worn the uniform of our country, lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have." What's really going on here, besides the back and forth, is Senator Kerry is dying for the opportunity to go head to head with the president again. And that's why he's diving right in here with these -- this counterattack.
But also, I thought it was very interesting. We ask Tony Snow all the time about various comments out there by various senators in both parties. A lot of times, he says, "I don't know anything about that." This time, I saw Tony Snow look down at the podium. He was prepared with the response.
The point is, the White House is dying to jump into a fight with John Kerry on the eve of these midterms. They think it's winning. They think it will rally conservatives against the Democrats to have John Kerry front and center in such a way where they believe he insulted U.S. troops.
PHILLIPS: Now, CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel joins me on the phone with more of these controversial comments including what the Kerry camp is doing to recover. Andrea, you're actually saying that a Kerry aide said that he actually mangled his prepared statement and didn't mean to say that?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kyra. According to Kerry's Communication Director David Wade, he said that the senator has misspoke during what were prepared remarks in Pasadena. He said that what Senator Kerry had meant to say in those prepared remarks were 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 stuck in a war in Iraq according to David Wade, this was a swipe at President Bush. It was designed to criticize President Bush who Kerry has done repeatedly ever since he threw his hat into the ring in '04. Kerry believes that President Bush hadn't learned the lessons of history, and that is why, in Kerry's opinion, the U.S. is mired in a losing war in Iraq. But Republicans had seized on these remarks, Kyra, beginning with Senator John McCain this morning. Later in the day we saw Tony Snow, the White House spokesman and others basically saying that this is, you know, further evidence of the Democrat cut and run strategy, that this is an antiwar statement. They're trying to fire up their base, Kyra, one week out from the election.
PHILLIPS: And does the same aide believe this is a test? I was looking actually at some of your notes saying that he believes this is now a test of whether Democrats know how to fight back against what's happening here?
KOPPEL: Well, what we're going to hear, when Senator Kerry comes to the microphone shortly, is Senator Kerry is going to be pushing back hard...
PHILLIPS: Andrea, here he comes. Let's listen in. Stay with me.
KERRY: Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how: I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy.
If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp -- rubber-stamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families.
My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops.
The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe. It's a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything in America to raw politics. It's their willingness to distort, their willingness to mislead Americans, their willingness to exploit the troops, as they have so many times at backdrops, at so many speeches at which they have not told the American people the truth.
I'm not going to stand for it.
What our troops deserve is a winning strategy. And what they deserve is leadership that is up to the sacrifice that they're making.
Sadly, this is the best that this administration can do in a month when we have lost 100 young men and women who have given their lives for a failed policy.
Over half the names on the Vietnam wall were put there after our leaders knew that our policy was wrong. And it was wrong that leaders were quiet then, and I'm not going to be quiet now.
KERRY: This is a textbook Republican campaign strategy: Try to change the topic; try to make someone else the issue; try to make something else said the issue, not the policy, not their responsibility.
Well, everybody knows it's not working this time, and I'm not going to stand around and let it work. If anyone thinks that a veteran, someone like me, who's been fighting my entire career to provide for veterans, to fight for their benefits, to help honor what their service is, if anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq and not the president and his people who put them there, they're crazy.
It's just wrong. This is a classic GOP textbook Republican campaign tactic.
I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes.
I'm sick and tired of a whole bunch of Republican attacks, most of which come from people who never wore the uniform and never had the courage to stand up and go to war themselves. Enough is enough. We're not going to stand for this. This policy is broken. And this president and his administration didn't do their homework. They didn't study what would happen in Iraq. They didn't study and listen to the people who were the experts and would have told them.
And they know that's what I was talking about yesterday. I'm not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh who's taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who's now going to try to attack me and lie about me and distort me.
No way. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks who've never worn the uniform of our country are willing to lie about those who did.
This administration has given us a Katrina foreign policy: mistake upon mistake upon mistake; unwilling to give our troops the armor that they need; unwilling to have enough troops in place; unwilling to give them the Humvees that they deserve to protect them; unwilling to have a coalition that is adequate to be able to defend our interests.
KERRY: Our own intelligence agency has told us they're creating more terrorists, not less. They're making us less safe, not more.
I think Americans are sick and tired of this game. These Republicans are afraid to stand up and debate a real veteran on this topic. And they're afraid to debate -- you know, they want to debate straw men because they're afraid to debate real men.
Well, we're going to have a real debate in this country about this policy. The bottom line is: These Republicans want to distort this policy. And, this time, it won't work because we are going to stay in their face with the truth.
And no Democrat is going to be bullied by these people, by these kinds of attacks that have no place in American politics. It's time to set our policy correct.
They have a stand-still-and-lose policy in Iraq and they have a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan. And the fact is, our troops, who have served heroically, who deserve better, deserve leadership that is up to their sacrifice, period.
QUESTION: Senator, John McCain said that you owe an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered this country's call because they are patriots.
To those people who didn't get your joke, who may have misinterpreted you as saying the undereducated are cannon fodder, what do you say?
KERRY: I never said that, and John McCain knows I've never said that and John McCain knows I wouldn't say that.
And John McCain ought to ask for an apology from Donald Rumsfeld for making the mistakes he's made. John McCain ought to ask for an apology from this administration for not sending in enough troops.
He ought to ask for an apology for putting our troops on the line with a policy that doesn't have an adequate coalition, that doesn't have adequate diplomacy, where we don't have a strategy to win.
And what we need is to debate the real issues, not these phony, sideline issues that are part of the politics. Americans are tired -- sick and tired of this kind of politics.
They know my true feelings. They know I fought to provide additional money for veterans. They know I fought to provide money for combat for veterans. They know I've fought to put money for V.A. They know I've honored those veterans.
They know that this is the finest military -- and I've said it 100,000 times -- that we've ever had. They know precisely what I was saying.
And they're trying to turn this because they have a bankrupt policy and they can't defend it to the nation and they can't defend it to the world.
KERRY: And I'm not going to stand for this anymore; period. That's the apology that people ought to get.
QUESTION: Do you need to go to joke school?
QUESTION: Senator, do you regret saying the remark? And what were you trying to say?
KERRY: Very simple: that those who didn't study it properly, those who made the decisions, they got us into Iraq. Very simple.
The fact is they know that. The administration knows that. And they're simply trying to distort this. They're trying to play a game.
And, again, I'm not going to stand for it. This is the kind of thing that makes Americans sick. People know -- I mean, there ought to be some level of honor and trust in this process.
I have fought a lifetime on behalf of veterans. We have the finest young men and women serving us in the United States military that we've ever had, and I'm proud of that.
But this administration has let them down, and that was clearly a remark directed at this administration. They understand it. They want to distort it. It's a classic Republican playbook. They want to change the topic.
We're not going to let them change the topic. The topic is their failed policy in Iraq. The topic is that they don't have a strategy, they don't have a way to be able to win.
You got Dick Cheney saying everything's just terrific in Iraq only a week ago. John McCain ought to ask for an apology from Dick Cheney for misleading America. He ought to ask for an apology from the president for lying about the nuclear program in Africa. He ought to ask for an apology for once again a week ago referring to Al Qaida as being the central problem in Iraq, when Al Qaida is not the central problem.
Enough is enough. I'm not going to stand for these people trying to shift the topic and make it politics. America deserves a real discussion about real policy. And that's what this election is going to be about next Tuesday.
One more question, then I got to run.
KERRY: Let me tell you something: I'm not going to give them one ounce of daylight to spread one of their lies and to play this game ever, ever again. That is a lesson I learned deep and hard.
And I'll tell you: I will stand up anywhere across this country and take these guys on. This is dishonoring not just the troops themselves by pointing the finger at the troops, it's abusing the troops. They're using the troops. They're trying to make the troops into the target here. I didn't do that, and they know that.
KERRY: And for them to suggest that somebody who served their country, as I did, and has a record like I have in the United States Congress of standing up and fighting for the troops would ever, ever insult the troops is an insult in and of itself.
And they owe us an apology for even daring to use the White House to stand up and make this an issue again. Shame on them. Shame on them.
And may the American people take that shame to the polls with them next Tuesday.
Thank you all.