From NBC's Mark Murray and Kelly O'Donnell
It's official: John Kerry's controversial (and arguably overblown) remarks have become a second-day news story. Once again, the White House has released advance excerpts of a speech -- this time Vice President Cheney's -- that slam Kerry for suggesting that US soldiers are in Iraq because they didn't study hard in school; Kerry says he was joking that this country is in Iraq because Bush -- not US troops -- didn't study hard. "Of course, now Senator Kerry says he was just making a joke, and he botched it up," Cheney is expected to say today. "I guess we didn't get the nuance. He was for the joke before he was against it. As a leading Democratic senator, John Kerry needs to learn that the men and women serving in Iraq aren't there because they didn't study hard or do their homework."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also commented on Kerry's remarks during an interview with a conservative radio host. "I just can't imagine why anyone would say something like that," Rumsfeld said. "The young men and women who serve in the armed forces of the United States are amazing, and indeed, they're inspirational." Strikingly, the Kerry flap barely came up in President Bush's interview today with Rush Limbaugh, but he did say: "Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words. And our troops deserve the full support of people in government."
Democrats -- including those who might run against Kerry for president in 2008 -- also have chimed in. Hillary Clinton called Kerry's remarks "inappropriate." And John Edwards talked about his former runningmate as he was voting early today in North Carolina. Per Edwards' aides, the former senator said that Kerry made a mistake, Kerry said he made a mistake, and that was that.