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(CNN) -- President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are facing off over comments Kerry made Monday that were widely perceived as a slam on U.S. troops in Iraq.
Kerry told students at Pasadena City College in California, "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."
Bush called Kerry's comments "insulting" and "shameful" and said the Democrat from Massachusetts owed an apology to the U.S. military.
Kerry apologized Wednesday to "to any service member, family member or American who was offended," saying he never intended" to disparage U.S. troops with a "poorly stated joke" aimed at Bush.
Kerry said Tuesday the president owes the troops an apology for misleading the country into the war in Iraq.
We asked CNN.com readers what they thought. Here's a selection of their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.
John Kerry owes every soldier -- past and present -- an apology. When will our politicians start using common sense before they open their mouths? Since when did it become OK to bash the president? Maybe John Kerry should check out the record number of applicants for our military colleges. As a father of a cadet at The Citadel, I know how dedicated these young men and women are to this country. We should all be proud of them and support them any way we can. I say enough already. Quit posturing, and do your job, Senator Kerry. We have had enough!
Finally Kerry has apologized, which was the right thing to do. The sad part is someone had to convince him to do so. It doesn't say much about this man's character. For being a self-proclaimed intellectual, he sure knows how to trip over himself. I'm actually amazed at how many respondents are supporting this major error in judgment. If it were a Republican, the Dems would be calling for resignation!
Of course Kerry was not insulting the troops. He was poorly trying to aim his barb at George W. Bush. It's absurd to think that he would be talking about troops being uneducated, because -- of all the people pontificating about this story -- he's the one who actually fought in a war. In any case, if Kerry says, "No, I was talking about you, Mr. Bush," wouldn't it be a blessing if the president took him at his word? Then he might actually try to explain how he got our country -- and our brave, smart soldiers -- stuck in Iraq. That's the question. A true leader would answer it.
I believe John Kerry should be ashamed of himself for those comments. And to use an excuse like "mangled his prepared speech"? Well, that explains it. Guess he can't speak from the heart. No, I believe he meant what he said, and that's just sad. I'm one of those people that the president supposedly misled. I know why we're in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the people there know as well. We have a mission, and the people of those countries still want our assistance. Shame, shame, shame, John Kerry. Made it easy to decide who to vote for!
Don't we find this ironic that our president is criticizing the nature to which someone delivers a speech? Oops, Kerry messed up once and apologized and corrected his comments. When will Bush apologize for his comments every time he speaks? I think there are other issues that need to get addressed, don't you?
John Kerry should not have to apologize. He believes what he said, and any apology would not be sincere. Every American should remember his attitude concerning our military, an attitude that is becoming more common among the Democrats. What ever happened to this once-great party of LBJ and JFK?
Of course John Kerry should have apologized. He disrespected some of the finest kids we have in this country -- our military. How could somebody aspiring to be commander in chief be so thoughtless as to discredit the integrity of the very people who put their lives on the line for us all? A lot of those kids in the military skipped college to join the fight against terror. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot CNN doesn't recognize the war in Iraq as being part of the war on terror.
Kerry made his apology today. When will Bush apologize to the 20,000+ seriously injured troops and the families of the 2,800+ dead troops for misleading America and putting them in harm's way?
After all the verbal miscues Bush has committed, it is laughable that the GOP now has this political distraction to use. Remember Bush's disparaging and racist comment about people in the Middle East: "They don't look like us"? The GOP apologists went into overdrive claiming he didn't mean what he said -- and the press gave him a pass on it.
John Kerry and Jane Fonda have done enough for America's enemies. His latest "you get stuck in Iraq" comment is more of the same. I was being spit on while traveling in uniform through Chicago's O'Hare airport in '72, when John was meeting with the North Vietnamese in Paris. The senator should step down from office before he disgraces his party any further, and he should apologize for his dishonest Vietnam-era testimony to Congress. Enough is enough.
That both sides will spin this story is a certainty. But how can you possibly take Kerry's remarks any other way than a slam of military personnel? I like to consider myself open to the ideas and opinions of both sides of the political spectrum. Kerry's remarks, however, strike me as smug and elitist. I don't care whether his joke-gone-bad was meant for Bush or not. American troops were the butt of the joke whether Kerry likes it not. If I were an American soldier, I would demand a sincere apology from Kerry.
Why is so much focus being placed on what Kerry said and not what the reality is in Iraq? American men and women are being killed and hurt. The president and his party seem to care more about this statement than the pain and loss being felt by families and soldiers. You need serious people for difficult jobs.
Bush's response to Kerry proves him right. "You" does not refer to the military. It refers to Bush, who sent over 2,500 young Americans to their deaths in Iraq without first doing his homework to figure out whether invading was in our best interests. Bush owes our armed forces an apology for sending our soldiers into harm's way based on bogus evidence of WMD, for not giving them body armor, for ignoring the advice of all his top generals and for not firing the soldiers' worst enemy: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
John Kerry is himself a botched joke. Will he ever learn to keep his mouth shut before elections? He needs to apologize to our brave troops. I'm sure that, as in previous wars, many of them have deferred their college educations to go fight for the country they love.
The level of hypocrisy that Mr. Bush shows by making this kind of remark is beyond shame and decency. He should apologize to every single family who lost a loved one for a war that benefits his "buddies" and Saudi Arabia. He is the one that really thinks we all are uneducated by trying to fool us every time it is convenient for him and his "regime."
George W. Bush is the one who should apologize. Apologize for lying about the rationale that led us into a conflict that diverted attention and resources away from the true enemy: bin Laden. And apologize for the continued lying, posturing and spinning of news from the front to justify a bad decision.
Sen. Kerry definitely owes the apology. Not only to the troops, but also to the U.S. public in general, for obviously thinking we're too stupid to realize that yes, he DID slam the troops. His attempt to pass his comments off as a "botched joke" is insulting as well.
President Bush owes the troops the apology, not Sen. Kerry. The GOP always likes to spin words, actions, anything. Perfect example is Iraq, where the GOP has spun the message every which way so many times it's sick. Kerry owes no one an apology and I commend him on speaking up. What's insulting is Bush thinking we are continually going to be stupid enough to believe what comes out of his mouth anymore.
In my opinion, Kerry should speak directly to our troops with his "botched joke" explanation instead of "firing off" at that nincompoop we call President. Yea, yea, yea, McCain, we know you were a POW in Nam. Does that make you more patriotic than Kerry or more of a hero than Kerry? Oh, I bet you CAN deliver a joke better.
Bush owes the apology. His pointless war is killing thousands (And, yes, I DO believe dead Iraqis count, too!) He is the one with blood on his hands, and he is a coward who ran from the war his generation was called on to fight. The only honorable man here is John Kerry.
John Kerry should be ashamed. I will never vote for a Democrat again. He owes the soldiers an apology. My son is serving in Iraq and by no means is he a dummy.
President Bush owes not just the military but the entire country an apology for misleading us into war in Iraq! Sen. Kerry's comment was misconstrued and blown out of proportion by the Bush propaganda machine.
I believe Kerry had bad delivery on a joke about Bush. He's not a great speaker. He is right to apologize, though. Bush should apologize for taking this country into an unnecessary war.
President Bush should not slam Kerry's remarks. It is because of President Bush that we are stuck in Iraq. Obviously, Kerry messed up his speech. Let's concentrate on getting out of there Mr. President, and stop wasting our time trying to catch other people fumbling speeches.
Sen. Kerry should apologize! He should apologize to anyone who was offended by his remarks whether he intended to offend or not. The character of a man or a woman is measured in large part by the ability to admit when they are wrong. He was wrong. Apologize and move on! If he doesn't apologize, he's telling us a great deal.
Anyone who follows politics and has been staying abreast of recent events knows Kerry was aiming for the administration, not our troops, but missed. It's an insult to my intelligence to assume I would misconstrue it and believe the spin the Republicans are putting on it. Eloquent he may not be, but Kerry would not insult our troops. Implying so is deceitful.
Kerry needs to apologize for the misunderstanding. Bush needs to apologize for the murder of our troops, being an idiot and lying to the country. Then he can apologize to Kerry for the swift boating, thinking Kerry would actually hurt our troops, John McCain for what he did to him, and every lie and smear he's ever made.
Nobody owes anybody an apology. Mr. Kerry in a way meant his statement to apply to the troops, and everybody knows this. If they need to apologize it's for acting like children talking about middle school boyfriends and girlfriends. Grow up is what they should be doing.
I think you, CNN, should apologize for making this your main story on CNN.com. In the last week of one of the most heated elections in history, you are reporting on a one-liner blown by someone who isn't even running for office.
Kerry owes our military an apology for his pathetic remarks. It doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican, you don't insult the military troops. The troops don't put their ideology before their duty. They are the true patriots of our country and under no circumstances should they or their work be diminished.
John Kerry does not owe anyone an apology. He stepped on his punch line. The GOP Smear/Propaganda Machine, Feigned Outrage Division, does owe all Americans, and especially our troops, an apology for misrepresenting the botched joke in order to smear Kerry. And of course the Bush regime owes all Americans (not to mention Iraqis) a huge apology for lying our country into a war, one of the worst things any leader can do short of gassing your own people.
I believe Kerry owes our entire military force, and their families an apology. If it was a "joke" it was not funny. My son serves overseas for the military and his mind and heart are on the job at all times. I couldn't say where Kerry's heart lies, but his mind seems to be on bashing the military at every opportunity, while claiming his "hero" status when convenient. The only sincerity I see from him is in his unwillingness to apologize, from that we have a clue where his heart lies.
The ... insult to our military is to send them into a war on false pretenses, faulty planning, and a wrong world view. The president owes military families an apology. [He should] admit that the call to go to war was not only wrong but immoral. Where is the moral outrage on the Christian Right or from the Christian community as a whole?
I believe it is Mr. Bush who owes the country an apology. All the reasons he gave for going into Iraq, save the one "that man tried to kill my daddy", have proven to be false. The conflict there is costing this country both lives and money, and we are not safer from terrorists than the day he started this debacle.
Kerry owes every man and women in uniform, including those who have given their lives, an apology. Kerry now claims he was talking about President Bush, so he now claims he was calling Bush uneducated and lazy. That would also deserve an apology.
Unfortunately there is truth in the statement. It was neither insulting nor shameful as spoken. It was just the "way it is." The only apology due is from those who created the situation.
Kerry has to apologize now. Insulting the intelligence of our professional all volunteer armed forces is just wrong. [It] does not matter that he "botched" a joke. That is a typical Democrat move however. Say something stupid, refuse to admit to your mistake and then spin it and say its Bush's fault.
CNN, MSNBC and Fox need to apologize to the American people for taking a non-story and bloviating incessantly over it while ignoring the important issues facing us at this critical time. I don't really mind the GOP seizing on Kerry's missteps and doing all they can to make political hay of it, that's politics. But I've been watching your anchors obsessing over it and filling up vast amounts of air time over it. Disgusting! And you wonder why you all are losing viewers? Move on!!! There is actual news going on and we need to hear about it.
President Bush owes the entire civilized population of the world an apology for butchering his opportunities to be a "uniter not a divider" over the past six long years!!! Sen. Kerry did apologize for botching his attempted statement.
First and foremost, the president is the LAST person to make any criticisms about botched remarks. He is, and always has been, the king of verbal blunders. Second, and most importantly, Republicans are highlighting their desperation and sophomoric approach to politics by trying to shift focus from failed policy in Iraq to a single statement by a decorated Vietnam veteran. Anyone who falls for the Republican's childish antics should be ashamed of themselves. Good for Sen. Kerry in providing an aggressive response: how can any blowhard politician DARE question the loyalty and patriotism of a senator who has put on the uniform and fought for his country?
John Kerry needs to apologize to the country, the military and President Bush. With our soldiers over in Iraq, we need to stay united as a country and stop all the bickering and back stabbing and name calling. How can we remain a country to be reckoned with if there is so much internal strife? Both parties think they know what is best for the common man so they will never agree on anything. They all need to grow up, stop the fighting and make this country proud once more.
WHO CARES???!!! Please, move on to something that matters. This ridiculous hullabaloo over an unintended gaff by a person who is not even a candidate demeans the entire election process.
Sen. John Kerry apologized Wednesday to anyone offended by what he called a "poorly stated joke" aimed at President Bush.
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