Tim Chapman

You have to hand it to John Kerry. It takes a lot of bravado to -- whether intentionally or not -- insult the men and women of the American military in the plainest of terms, and then insist that those he’d insulted "misinterpreted" his comments. Kerry is aghast that Americans would consider his comments insulting. When he told students in California that they better study hard or they would “get stuck in Iraq,” he insists he was not referring to the military, rather he was joking about President Bush.

How anyone who understands the English language could read the simple words uttered by John Kerry and conclude that this was a joke is hard to see. In fact, if you watch the tape of Kerry delivering the comments, the students behind him appeared stone faced at the “botched joke.” Nevertheless, Kerry insists it was so and, unfortunately, his revisions appear to be gaining traction in a way that he may not personally desire, but that his party should be thankful for.

This week, late night comics have been having a field day with the Kerry “botched joke.” The Kerry flap was the subject of David Letterman’s famed Top Ten List this week -- Top Ten Kerry Excuses. The list had such gems as, “So I botched a joke, Letterman does it every night,” and “Hey, it was still funnier than most of the jokes on this list.” Not to be outdone, Jay Leno chimed in about Kerry’s “foot in mouth syndrome” to the laughter of his studio audience.

Perhaps the funniest joke about the “botched joke” came from an unlikely source, the U.S. troops. A group of American GIs gained internet fame this week when they posed for a picture in Iraq with a giant sign reading “Halp us jon carry – we R stuk here n Irak.”An anonymous internet blogger who writes for a conservative website called Influence Peddler made an astute observation about the GI’s sidesplitting humor.

“I think this picture may hurt the GOP, in that we are helped when people realize that John Kerry is a leader in the Democratic Party, and he holds offensive views,” writes the blogger. “This picture however, tends to make it plainer that John Kerry is a joke, who almost never ought to be taken seriously. And if enough voters think that Kerry shouldn’t be taken seriously, they are less likely to regard it as important to come out and vote for his opposition.”

Each time a late night comedian further reinforces the absurdity of the “botched joke” the real substance of this event becomes further lost. Reinforcing the late night comics is the mainstream media, where most commentators seem to believe the Kerry “botched joke” excuse.

Tim Chapman

Tim Chapman is the Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com

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