John Kerry: Get An Education or Get Stuck in Iraq

John Kerry, who came a few thousand Ohio voters short of being Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces:

You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

Unbelievable. And rather ironic given that the line sounds dumb in more ways than one.

And, of course, in the age of YouTube politics, this is everywhere already including, appropriately enough, YouTube:

Update: Lots of reaction out there in the blogosphere, too:

  • Michael Demmons: “I happen to know several military people whose smarts would put people like John Kerry to shame.”
  • AllahPundit: “[I]t’s awfully goofy. And, of course, completely politically tone-deaf, which makes it vintage JFK. “
  • BCB: “There is this vast amount of contempt for the military within the Democratic party.”
  • Richard @ Hyscience: “It’s another reason to vote R on election day.”
  • Ed Morrissey: “Wow. Just wow.”
  • Greg Tinti: “[M]uch like Mel Gibson’s comments about ‘the Jooos,’ you don’t say something like this unless you think it’s actually true. He’ll try to weasel his way out of it, of course, but it’s too late.”
  • Dan Riehl: “The bastard should be tried for treason and shot!”

I think we can stop a little short of that . . . .

Foreign Policy‘s James Forsyth:

Personally, I buy Kerry's explanation that he was trying to insult Bush's intellect – not that of the troops. Any politician knows that bashing the men and women who serve is the dumbest thing a politician can do and Kerry himself is a veteran. Kerry also seems slightly obsessed with the question of whether he or Bush is smarter. Indeed, one can't help but wonder if he didn't release his Navy records during the campaign because they revealed that he actually got slightly worse grades at Yale than Bush did.

Nevertheless, the Republicans are going to run with this: note McCain's demand for an apology. Today there must be even fewer Democrats keen on Kerry '08.

It’s almost axiomatic that people who spend a lot of time trying to convince you of how clever they are aren’t very clever.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Ah. I thought Kerry was talking about President Bush.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    I’m missing both why this line is ironic, and why its “dumb”. Can someone please explain?

    It sounds to me like Kerry is suggesting that the folks who got us into Iraq should have been smarter. Hasn’t that been said about sixty-million times? And isn’t it true?

    What am I missing?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Um, well GWB has a Harvard MBA, Condi Rice has a PhD, Don Rumsfeld went to Princeton, Paul Wolfowitz has a PhD….

    And Kerry is clearly saying that our soldiers in Iraq are uneducated yahoos who joined up because they had no other opportunities.

  4. You’re missing the fact that Kerry just insulted every single person who has joined the military and is serving in Iraq. Whether you agree with the war or not, basically telling our soldiers they weren’t smart enough to do anything else but get “stuck in Iraq” is pretty demeaning to them, and wholly condescending.

  5. LaurenceB says:

    Ahhh… (light bulb goes on)

    OK. You guys are assuming that Kerry was referring to soldiers, whereas I assumed he was referring to Bush, et al.

    Well, if your assumption is correct, then yes indeed, this is a dumb thing to say.

    That seems like a big “if” though, from what I can see.

  6. Anderson says:

    Also, “erstwhile” is not a synonym for “would-be.” It means “former.”

    I’d hate to see you stuck in Iraq, JJ … πŸ˜‰

  7. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: True. Not sure what I was thinking! (In my defense, I’ve used it correctly numerous times before!)


  8. Wickedpinto says:

    Well, if your assumption is correct, then yes indeed, this is a dumb thing to say.

    I don’t think he meant to speak in the double negative for the purpose of saying, “If you work hard, if you study hard, you will be smarter than bush”

    When did Bush ever get stuck in Iraq, and if bush did, like Jaymes Joyner said, bush has an MBA, so kerry’s comment doesn’t apply to bush, Kerry is saying that the military is filled with dumb lazy losers.

    It’s not a very vague comment, though I’m not as nuanced as he.

  9. Bandit says:

    Kerry meant to tell them that if they drop out of university they’ll be conscripted and sent to fight Napolean and freeze to death. He’s assuming that all these college kids are too stupid to realize that it’s an all volunteer military.

  10. Anderson says:

    When did Bush ever get stuck in Iraq

    Surely you jest!

    bush has an MBA

    You’re not confusing that with having an education, are you?

    Apparently, Bush’s “education” about Iraq came from the likes of Wolfowitz and Myrloie, deeply ignorant (not “uneducated”) people.

  11. “make an effort to be smart”

    Is this a democratic version of individual responsibility?

    If it was pointed at Bush, then it is interesting variation on the American bromide “Study hard and you can be president when you grow up”.

    Finally, if he was pointing at Bush, there is a bit of a pot meets kettle side to this.

  12. Christopher says:

    Anderson: you don’t believe that having a graduate degree means that you are educated? Wow, I suppose you must be UNeducated because a person would have to be to say something like that.

    LaurenceB: C’mon man. You do not flatter yourself by playing dumb. Stop the act. Just because Kerry is your hero (why oh why? Why why why?) doesn’t mean you have to try and spin what he said. The fact is, Kerry has been putting his foot in his mouth for 40 years now. I suppose after such a long time its got to be a good fit.

  13. legion says:

    I still believe he was referring to Bush, et al, rather than the fate of draftees, but yeah, that’s a pretty pathetic way for the guy portrayed in 2004 as ‘the smart one’ to express himself. He’ll be apologizing for this for a while.

    Between this sort of off-key slop and the foot-dragging in releasing campaign cash for other Dem races this fall, Kerry shouldn’t be measuring office space for any sweet cabinet jobs if the Dems get back the WH in 08. He’ll be lucky to even be in the primaries…

  14. Wayne says:

    How in the world can anyone watch that and not know that Kerry was saying that you need to get an education or you will end up in Iraq meaning being stuck in military in Iraq. Can anyone be that ideological blind. Especially since that is an old Vietnam era saying.

  15. Christopher says:


    As a liberal, tell us, seriously: would you WANT Kerry in a position of power if the D’s win, and/or would you WANT him running again?

  16. vnjagvet says:

    Kerry’s latest rantings(paraphrased):

    “Im sick and tired of a whole bunch of Republican attacks by people who never served in the military.”

    “They know that I was attacking the administration.”

    “They are afraid to debate real men.”

    “No Democrat is going to be bullied.”

    Here’s one veteran that thinks he’s a pathetic jerk.

  17. paladin says:

    I still wonder if this will get as much play in the MSM as Rush Limbaugh being mean to Michael J. Fox.

  18. anjin-san says:

    That Kerry is something of a twit should be news to no one. That this is all the GOP has to hang their hats on so close to an election speaks volumes.

    As for Bush’s MBA, hmmmm rich, powerful family buys a somewhat slow son an Ivy League degree. Wow, guess that’s never happened before!

  19. legion says:

    No on all counts. Kerry already f’ed up his shot at the Big Show.

    I think it’s already gotten more. [snark]I can’t wait for Matt Lauer to say that Kerry was just saying what everybody has been thinking.[/snark]

  20. legion says:

    That this is all the GOP has to hang their hats on so close to an election speaks volumes.
    Excellent point, anjin-san. And to think – this will be the lead political story for the next couple of days, and Kerry isn’t even running!

    Saayyy… you don’t suppose the Dems actually just did some ‘kung-fu’ of their own, do you? πŸ™‚

  21. Dave Schuler says:

    Anyone care to start a pool on when Mr. Kerry will issue an apology of the form “I’m sorry if you were offended…”?

  22. legion says:

    I’ll take that bet, Dave…

    “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,” he said. “No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan and a stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq.”

    “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.”

    Well, I’ll say this for Kerry, he’s not backing down. Hell, I’ll take back half of what I’ve said about him just for calling Rush ‘doughy’. πŸ™‚

  23. Len says:

    That YouTube clip was ten seconds in length. That has to go down in the record books as the shortest political speech in history!

  24. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    They have had the whole speech on Fox and is available elsewhere. Kerry was talking about our military, and what you must do to avoid service therein. That lying SOB can claim he was talking about Bush and you who forgive every Democrat of anything whether it is bad judgement to outright breaking laws will deny and defend. Shows your lack of honesty. Kerry was coward in Viet Nam, he awarded his own medals, lied about his service and consorted with the enemy afterwords. That anti-American gigolo defamed our armed services. Thank god he will never be in command of them.

  25. Aubrey says:

    James Forsyth’s comment ignores Kerry’s years leading Vietnam Veterans Against the War including his notorious testimony before the Senate denigrating America’s military.

  26. Ugh says:

    Any politician knows that bashing the men and women who serve is the dumbest thing a politician can do

    Mocking purple hearts on your party’s national convention floor by wearing fake purple heart stickers is, however, perfectly acceptable.

  27. Anderson says:

    Myself, I hope Kerry doesn’t get a single vote. How’s that?

    –More seriously, if the Dems were clever at all, this would be a great Sister Souljah moment for Dems in tight races; Harold Ford should be on TV right now, criticizing Kerry & calling for an apology to our great nation’s armed forces.

  28. Anderson says:

    Btw, anyone seen a transcript of Kerry’s entire speech on Monday, rather than the video soundbite? I can’t find one …

  29. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Grasping for straws, Anderson? What Kerry said is that he was talking about education, and that if you got some and became smart, you would not get stuck in Iraq. I guess those members of the armed forces with college degrees must have been duped into joining an all volunteer service. Kerry being an elite leftist, nee communist, revealed, once again his disdain for our military. I think you may find this has fired up the Republican base. Serves you right.

  30. Dale Cox says:

    PLEASE, Someone, PLEASE tell me what the people of America have done to the people of Massachusetts that we should be saddled with this idiot.

  31. Herb says:

    Every American should get down on their knees and thank the good lord that Kerry was NOT elected President.

    If this doesn’t tell every Democrat what the Democrat Leaders are like and where they want to take this country, then they to are BOOBS, just like Kerry.

  32. LJD says:

    Not surprising, the liberal boobs scrambling to defend this idiot.

    Typical Democrat and Kerry procedure:
    1. ‘Accidentally’ expose your true and despicable feelings about our troops.
    2. When you get the inevitable backlash, fail to apologise (whether you think its due or not) and try to whitewash the whole thing with a statement like ‘well the problem is, and what I meant to say was…’
    3. (and my favorite) Fail to learn from your mistakes and continue supporting absolute idiots like Kerry and Dean.

    I am another Vet who thinks this guy is an ass. I also do not believe the purple heart sticker issue was directed at Veterans in general, just Hanoi John.

  33. spencer says:

    I congratulate Joyner for making intelligent comments on this foolishness by both the dems and repubs.

  34. John Kerry is a congenital idiot. He has insulted every service member, and every veteran. I’m a veteran, hold a bachelor’s degree and have done postgraduate work. Please, America, wake up to the fact that the Democrats want to lead us down a path to nowhere – no plan, just sniping and insults. Thanks, Kerry, for spotlighting that fact.

  35. Jeff says:

    Anyone stupid enough to think what he said is an insult to those in Iraq now needs to learn a little more English. Anyone dishonest enough to pretend that it is an insult because they want to make political hay out of the comment is saying they think the voters of America are idiots.
    They may be right, but they are the ones insulting the common man.

  36. Dave Schuler says:

    I win! How high did the pool go?

  37. hogan says:

    Permalink, don’t be silly, here is the quote again for you to see for yourself Kerry was talking about the troops and he made up the Bush lie to cover. “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” Kerry always lies, it’s his nature.

  38. daniel bosc says:
  39. Aly says:

    I don’t particularly like Kerry, but neither do I like Bush. Most politicians are liars. Clinton lied, Kerry lied, Bush lied, Perry lied, etc.

    But what I do have to smile at is the fact that so many people are rushing to defend the education of our President. Now Condi, there is an intelligent woman. However, there is a difference between being intelligent and educated, being below average and educated, being intelligent but uneducated, etc.

    As is so obviously clear to most mildly observant people (which I will assume most of you reading this are) being in attendance at a school or university does not merit that someone actually learns anything. Education requires participation on the part of the person recieving said education. It is also important to note that a very intelligent person may not earn even a BS/BA degree because it costs money to go to school…while someone who is not that bright can graduate with a 2.0GPA and, if they come from an affluent family, go on to acquire a master’s degree. My stepsister did it, so I would know. πŸ˜‰

    Most of the people I look up to when thinking of great individuals did not have extensive college hours, like Jesus, Gahndi, and Mother Teresa. Then again, my priorities are quite different than most.

    Remember to keep your eyes on the important things, rather than getting caught up in these distractions…badmouthing our president or his opposers will not improve the world. Talk is cheap. God bless you all.

  40. jill says:

    i cant believe john Kerry would say such a comment to out troops who volunteer to risk there lives for out country… i have been a military wife for 4 yrs now and everything that came out of his mouth is false, my husbands platoon leader who happens to have a bachelors degree is recovering from severe wounds at Walter reed and not only that my best friend who also has a bachelors degree is in basic training for the army. so that proves that Kerry is wrong, people join for a completely different reason one that only a soldier that has been overseas could ever explain.

  41. rachel * says:

    personally i think that john Kerry is very stupid for bashing the American troops in Iraq my brother is a marine and i don’t think that he would appreciate Kerry talking about the US forces like that .. totally uncalled for !!! my brother is not stupid he just decided that he wanted to to be a marine that don’t mean he is stupid ! ! !

  42. Linoge says:

    Apologies for the messed-up trackback (the most recent one, from “walls of the city”). I completely jacked up the post I was linking to this page from, and did not realize it until now. Feel free to delete or edit it as you see fit. Sorry.

  43. Aly says:

    “Kerry was coward in Viet Nam”

    …as opposed to Bush who was so courageous sitting comfortably at home while others actually served? Come on now, let’s be fair.