Friday, November 17, 2006

"And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq" -Sen. Kerry

Kerry Belittles U.S. Troops

Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON - As a civic-minded American, you probably learned an important lesson from the negativity-soiled election season that just ended. The lesson was clear, wasn't it?

I'm thinking in particular of the fabulous John Kerry incident, where the former presidential candidate appeared to inform a college audience that the American troops in Iraq were slackers, dropouts and idiots. A careful examination of what he said and how he said it reveals that Kerry was not being elitist, unpatriotic or callous. It was far worse. He was doing lousy stand-up.

That's the lesson: Leave humor to the professionals.

Remember the "joke"? Talking about education, Kerry said, "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. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." What he meant to say was along the lines of " ... if you don't, you'll end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

Studying the video, you could almost see the flop sweat as Kerry was trying to lurch and stagger his way to the end of that sentence. He looks down at his notes. No help there. Maybe he lost his place. So he looks up, panic in his eyes, and delivers that final phrase -- his punch line, his payload! It landed with a nauseating splat, like a pancreas hitting the operating room floor.

The man is as strait-laced as a whalebone corset, as rigid as Formica. His business is politics. He should never be anywhere near a joke.


Here is an actual Jerry Seinfeld joke: The problem with mall garages is that everything looks the same. They try to differentiate between levels: different colors, different numbers, different letters. What they need to do is name the levels like, "Your Mother's a Whore." You would remember that. You would go: "No, we're not here. We're in 'My Father's an Abusive Alcoholic.'"

The same Jerry Seinfeld joke, as John Kerry might tell it: The problem with mall garages is that your mother's a whore.

Of course, the instant that Kerry's speech became public, and it was evident that he had been guilty of doofusry but not callousness, everyone backed off, even his political adversaries, in the spirit of decency and fair play. This occurred on the planet Nice, a parallel universe that shares Earth's orbit but is always on the other side of the sun, so we don't know it's there.

Here on Earth, however, Kerry's savage, unprovoked attack on the intelligence and competence of the troops was officially deplored by hundreds of Republicans who had apparently injected turkey-baster-size doses of Botox to keep a straight face.

What is the penalty for not leaving humor to the pros? Death. Kerry is dead! The day before, he was exploring his chances for a 2008 presidential bid. If the speech was a trial balloon, it was filled with cow methane.

Kerry still had a slim chance to recover, but he didn't see it. The only way to be acquitted of the crime of impersonating a humorist is to get a humorist's help for the apology. Alas, no. His was the sort of grudging, truculent non-apology so common in Washington:

"I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform ..."

Borrr-ing ...

Here's the apology I would have written for him.

"As I stand humbly before you today, a man who resembles a severely constipated mortician ..."

(Pause for laughter.)

"... I wish to apologize for my statement yesterday, which was widely misinterpreted to suggest I thought the American troops in Iraq are stupid. That was funny, when you think about it, since I was being the stupid one. It was like the pot calling the kettle black."

(Looks down at notes. Looks up, panicked.)

"Wait. I'm not calling the troops black. I meant that I am the one who is black. I mean stupid."

(Pause for laughter.)

"No, wait. I am white. And some of the troops are black, but not in a bad way!"

(Pause for laughter.)

"I mean there's nothing wrong with being black! Black is good! I mean ..."

(Takes a drink. Spills it all over self. Slips on water, falls on butt.)

(Thunderous applause.)

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