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Inside Politics

Kerry discusses $87 billion comment

'One of those inarticulate moments,' he says

John Kerry speaks Tuesday during an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America."
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(CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry on Wednesday gave an explanation for his comment that he "actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," calling it "one of those inarticulate moments."

Kerry made the comment during a March 16 appearance at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, in response to a question about his vote against an $87 billion supplemental appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As he tried to explain that he had voted for an earlier version of the bill before opposing final passage, Kerry said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

The Bush campaign immediately seized on the comment, using the footage in television ads to illustrate its charge that Kerry flip-flops on issues, particularly the war in Iraq.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly refer to the comment in their stump speeches, noting that Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards, also voted against the appropriations bill.

Wednesday, in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Kerry was asked about the statement, which has become one of the most quoted lines in the 2004 campaign.

"It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries and I didn't say something very clearly," he said.

However, as the Bush campaign quickly pointed out, Kerry actually made the comment in the early afternoon.

CNN covered Kerry's appearance that day. He made the comment about 1:20 p.m.

Kerry was barely off the air at ABC on Wednesday when the Bush campaign fired off an e-mail noting the discrepancy, under the subject line, "Perhaps His Watch Was On Paris Time?"

Asked about the time inconsistency, Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade retorted that the Bush campaign would rather "debate time of day than policy."

Wade also said "better an inarticulate answer than an inarticulate policy that has cost American lives and set us back in the war on terrorism." (Today in Iraq)

After the remark became controversial, Kerry explained that he had supported an earlier Democratic measure that would have paid for the $87 billion in war funding by reducing Bush's tax cuts.

After it was defeated, he said he voted against final passage of the bill to voice his displeasure with the president's Iraq policy.

Kerry told ABC on Wednesday that the comment "reflects the truth of the position, which is I thought to have the wealthiest people in America share the burden of paying for that war."

"It was a protest," he said. "Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted, and that's what I did."

Bush, Cheney and their GOP supporters have hit Kerry hard for voting against the money to pay for military operations after previously voting for a congressional resolution authorizing Bush to take military action in Iraq.

CNN's Mike Roselli contributed to this report.

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