Spinning Kerry's Insult of U.S. Troops

Early Tuesday afternoon, the Times picked up on the emerging outcry over remarks madethe previousnight by Sen. John Kerry while campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at a school in California.

Continuous news desk reporter David Stout, whose first take on stories rarely make the print edition, files "Kerry and G.O.P. Spar Over Iraq Remarks," a headline that takes the pressure off Kerry to defend his apparent insult against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Not until the fifth paragraph does Stout repeat Kerry's notorious comment: "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.'"

After citing some Republicans demanding an apology from Kerry for calling American soldiers uneducated and lazy, Stout lets Kerry rant and rave on and on about "doughy Rush Limbaugh" and "right-wing nut jobs."

"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 the end, Stout defends the "outrage" Kerry feels by harkening back to an old Times' smear against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and making it seem as if Kerry was on the attack, not reeling from what reads as an insult to U.S. troops in Iraq.

"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.'"

During the 2004 campaign, "unsubstantiated" was the paper's favorite adjective when referring to the allegations made by the Swifties. As documented in a Times Watch Special Report, the Times stuck that warning label on references to the Swift Boat Veterans no less than 20 times before the election. By contrast, false reports of Bush going AWOL during the Vietnam War were not a single time characterized as "unsubstantiated."