Watching the Republican-fueled uproar over John Kerry's fumbled attempt at humor, it's clear the GOP will do anything to keep the pre-election debate off its failed policies in Iraq -- trash Michael J. Fox, go after David Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell, pounce on Kerry.
It's all about distracting voters from the real issues on the table.
This Kerry thing couldn't be more of a non-issue. Everyone -- especially a veteran like John Kerry -- supports the troops. That's not the debate; the debate is whether we are leaving our troops in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war with no clear mission and a job they are ill-equipped for (since when is our military trained to resolve thousand-year old religious hatreds?).
The White House had a full day to prepare for its attack on Kerry. Tony Snow was ready, talking points on the podium. Could he have been any more self-righteous, demanding an apology? As Kerry said, it's Bush who should apologize to the troops for sending them off to die with no clear strategy for winning.
What could be more absurd than the White House of George "I never met a sentence I didn't want to mangle" Bush jumping on John Kerry for what was obviously a mangled attempt at humor?
Lesson to Kerry: leave the punchlines to David Letterman.
That's how weird things have gotten: Letterman is making impassioned attacks against the GOP prosecution of the war, and Kerry is firing off -- and bungling -- one-liners.
And John McCain should be ashamed of himself. He knows Kerry wasn't slamming the troops, but couldn't help currying favor with the White House by piling on. Wasn't caving in on the torture bill enough of a suck-up?
Here's the well-oiled GOP message machine in action. On Drudge earlier today, under a picture of Kerry, was the headline: "I apologize To No One." Here's the full quote from Kerry: "I apologize to no one for my criticism of the President and his broken policy." [emphasis mine] Hmm, just a little different meaning than the impression left by your headline, eh Matt?
P.S. Thankfully, the blogosphere quickly and effectively gave this inane GOP straw-grasping the thrashing it deserves. Check out the takes of Steve Benen, billmon, John Cole, Attaturk, Ezra Klein, Charles P. Pierce, and HuffPosters Bob Cesca and Greg Saunders.
UPDATE: Ken Mehlman sent out an email today with the subject line "Disgraceful." In it, the RNC chair pushes the bogus story line that "failed presidential candidate John Kerry brazenly insulted the brave American men and women serving in our military." You want brazen? Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, and Matthew Dowd are among those Republicans who admit that Kerry flubbed a line and wasn't attacking our troops. But not Mehlman, who writes: "Our troops deserve to be honored, not insulted by the likes of John Kerry." John Kerry, who volunteered to serve in Vietnam, was repeatedly honored for his service, and who has gone on to consistently fight for veterans' issues in the Senate. But what does it matter when there is the chance to rouse the base instincts of the GOP base? "John Kerry's outrageous comments," continues Mehlman's missive, "are a vivid reminder of why these elections matter. In six days, politicians who are as bad or worse than John Kerry could take control of Congress... We need you to now keep the John Kerry Democrats out of power."
This from the guy whose organization paid for the race-baiting Harold Ford ads. Clearly, Ken Mehlman knows from "Disgraceful." Talk about chutzpah!