PBS 'Washington Week' Panel Debates Kerry Gaffe: Is It a 'Flapdoodle' or a 'Kerfluffle'?

November 6th, 2006 11:18 AM

The panel of "mainstream" reporters on PBS's Friday night "Washington Week" roundtable sounded typically sympathetic to John Kerry's "botched joke" excuses, and dismissed its importance to the election. PBS host Gwen Ifill called it the "Kerry kerfluffle." Which is also a botched joke of some sort, since she must have meant "kerfuffle." (Doesn't she read her daily Taranto at Opinion Journal?)

Ifill: Let's talk about some of the other things that we're not certain how they will affect the outcome on Tuesday. One this week I called the ‘Kerry kerfluffle,’ where Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee last time around, came out and he said a few things which many Democrats found unhelpful. And many Republicans found to be a godsend and by the end of the week we don't know how it washes. Let's listen again."

Kerry: "Education, if  you make the most of it and study hard and do your homework and make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

President Bush: "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful."

Ifill: "Okay, Dan. Assuming that Jon Stewart had the best time of his life this week with this sort of thing, did the Republicans have the second best time?"

Dan Balz of the Washington Post dismissed the odd notion that liberal Jon Stewart was giddy: "I think the Republicans may have had a better time than Jon Stewart with it. The enthusiasm they brought to this battle was extraordinary. They jumped on it. They jumped on it really before anybody really knew about it. They were primed to come out hitting on this thing. When most people had not caught up with -- the fact of what – he had said."

Ifill: "After it became clear to almost everyone that what kerry had done was really a misstatement. A bad joke. But misstated."

Balz: "I sent one of the Kerry people an e-mail and said what was the, quote-unquote 'joke'? Because I couldn't figure it out. Like most people. Where was the joke in this? And in fact, He had a prepared text. It was the third kind of lame joke. You could see what he was trying to do. And it bore no resemblance to the way it came out. And why it took him as many days as it did to actually kind of walk it as far back as he did and he didn't walk it quite all the way back. His level of anger at the president is I think what really got him into trouble on that. And he paid a real price for it."

Ifill: "Now John, is the reason why this issue has become such a big deal because everyone is trying to play the edges? The Republicans are seizing every opportunity to play to their base and the Democrats are trying to lay low?"

John Harwood of CNBC and the Wall Street Journal: "First of all, I prefer flapdoodle to kerfuffle."

Gwen: "Really? It’s not alliterative, but okay."

Harwood: "This is one of the more competent political plays Republicans have made all year long. They knew how to do this. They saw an opportunity to jump on a very familiar punching bag. And they played it for all it's worth. At the end of the day, I don't think it's going to matter all that much. John Kerry is not on the ballot. What voter has really been paying attention to what John Kerry has been doing in any respect over the last two years?"

Harwood theorized that Democratic candidates had to respond, and weren’t happy about it, but it also gave Democrats like Harold Ford Jr. the opportunity to distance themselves from the national Democratic Party.