War Veteran Cleland Backs Kerry Over Gaffe

Nathan Burchfiel | Staff Writer | Wednesday, November 01, 2006

War Veteran Cleland Backs Kerry Over Gaffe

(CNSNews.com) - Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) on Tuesday voiced his support for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who became embroiled in controversy after comments he made Monday appeared to imply that American troops in Iraq are uneducated.

"John Kerry is a patriot who has fought tooth and nail for veterans ever since he came home from Vietnam," Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, said in a statement. "He has stood with his brothers in arms unlike this [Bush] Administration which exploits our troops to make a political point and divide America."

During a campaign rally for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides Monday, Kerry said, "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, and 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."

Conservatives criticized Kerry for implying that U.S. soldiers join the military because they're stupid and can't succeed elsewhere.

Calling his critics "right wing nut-jobs," Kerry said in a news conference Tuesday that his comment was a "botched joke" intended to make fun of the president.

Cleland said anyone who thought Kerry's comment was insulting the troops has "a partisan political agenda and that's the bottom line."

"John Kerry should apologize to no one for his criticism of the President and his broken policy in Iraq," he added. "George Bush is the one who owes our troops an apology."

Echoing Kerry's reaction Tuesday, Cleland said criticism of the "botched joke" is "textbook Republican campaign tactics."

Numerous Republicans on Tuesday called for Kerry to apologize for the comment from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), who also served in Vietnam, to President Bush himself.

"The members of the United States military are plenty smart, and they are plenty brave," Bush said during a campaign appearance in Georgia Tuesday evening. "And the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology."

High-profile Democrats, including members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have remained silent on the matter.

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