In prepared remarks provided to the press, Kerry intended to say: "'Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy?... You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.'"
"In attacking Mr. Kerry and defending the war," the New York Times says, "the White House clearly made the calculation that achieving what has been its main strategic goal this year - firing up a dispirited conservative base - would outweigh any risk that might come in spotlighting a war that Republican Party officials said had become a huge burden for its candidates."
The Republican National Committee, in an attempt to make more hay out of Kerry's comment, is releasing a new Web ad -- meaning there's no money behind it -- contrasting Kerry's statement with Republicans who are praising US troops. The ad's kicker: "John Kerry should apologize. Our soldiers are waiting."
"Democratic strategist Mike McCurry, a former press secretary for President Clinton, said Kerry 'should apologize' but added that the White House's reaction smacks of desperation," reports the Boston Herald.
As NBC's Lisa Myers suggested here yesterday, NBC's Bob Windrem reports that a senior US intelligence official says there is no information pointing to an Osama bin Laden audio or video tape being released prior to the congressional elections. However, the official added that it is possible that bin Laden could release such a tape or have a surrogate deliver a message. The official noted that bin Laden has broadcast five audio messages this year, although none in the past four months. That number, he noted, is a lot more than bin Laden did last year. His last video message was aired October 29, 2004, just before the presidential election. Its threatening tone is believed to have had some effect on the election.
The Wall Street Journal looks at how Iraq is a "vexing" issue for both parties in the final stretch -- Democrats as well as Republicans. The GOP's problem is spelled out in the new NBC/Journal poll. Top Democrats "have failed to coalesce around a single strategy for reducing the violence there, and Democratic leaders have offered diverging strategies for Iraq that range from beginning a troop withdrawal before the end of the year to splitting the country into three ethnic regions. Democrats also are struggling to find a way of criticizing the administration's handling of Iraq without appearing to denigrate the U.S. military personnel serving there."
Lost in yesterday's back-and-forth over Kerry's remarks was Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations in which, the New York Times says, she called for a "'fundamental change of course'" in Iraq and presented her most comprehensive criticism yet of the Administration's handling of the war.
The Financial Times points out that the midterms "could help decide the fate of two of the most controversial Bush administration officials," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and UN Ambassador John Bolton. The paper reports that unless the Senate confirms Bolton, whose recess appointment expires in January, his "term would when Congress recessed after the elections, which is likely to happen before Thanksgiving on November 23." If so, he "could leave at a crucial moment in negotiations over a Security Council sanctions resolution to be imposed on Iran." Rumsfeld's battle, on the other hand, is against public opinion.