And the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, asserted that Mr. Kerry’s speech “sort of fits a pattern” of criticizing American troops in Iraq. “This is an absolute insult, and I’m a little astonished that he didn’t figure it out already,” Mr. Snow said. “If I say something stupid, I apologize as quickly as possible.”
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, which he conceded were part of a “botched joke,” 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 a televised news conference today in Seattle, Mr. Kerry said he was “disgusted” by the Republican attacks, which he noted were coming at the end of a bloody month in Iraq. “Sadly, this is the best this administration can do,” he said.
Mr. Kerry did not mention Mr. McCain in his statement, although at the news conference he said Mr. McCain should seek an apology from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney if he wants an apology from anyone.