Quotable: John Kerry finds his spine at last

“I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp — rubberstamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families.

“My statement yesterday — and the White House knows this full well — was a botched joke about the president and the president’s people, not about the troops. The White House’s attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe. It’s a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything America, the raw politics. It’s their willingness to distort, their willingness to mislead Americans, their willingness to exploit the troops as they have so many times at backdrops, at so many speeches in which they have not told the American people the truth.

“I’m not going to stand for it. What our troops deserve is a winning strategy, and what they deserve is leadership that is up to the sacrifice that they’re making. Sadly, this is the best that this administration can do in a month when we have lost 100 young men and women who have given their lives for a failed policy. Over half the names on the Vietnam wall were put there after our leaders knew that our policy was wrong, and it was wrong that leaders were quiet then, and I’m not going to be quiet now. This is a textbook Republican campaign strategy: try to change the topic, try to make someone else the issue, try to make something else said the issue, not the policy, not their responsibility.

“Well, everybody knows it’s not working this time, and I’m not going to stand around and let it work.

“If anyone thinks that a veteran, someone like me, who’s been fighting my entire career to provide for veterans, to fight for their benefits, to help honor what their service is — if anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq, and not the president and his people who put them there, they’re crazy. It’s just wrong.

“This is a classic GOP textbook Republican campaign tactic. I’m sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes.

“I’m sick and tired of a whole bunch of Republican attacks, the most of which come from people who never wore the uniform and never had the courage to stand up and go to war themselves.

“Enough is enough. We’re not going to stand for this.

“This policy is broken, and this president and his administration didn’t do their homework. They didn’t study what would happen in Iraq. They didn’t study and listen to the people who were the experts and would have told them. And they know that’s what I was talking about yesterday. I’m not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who’s taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who’s now going to try to attack me and lie about me and distort me. No way. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, are willing to lie about those who did. It’s over.

“This administration has given us a Katrina foreign policy: mistake upon mistake upon mistake, unwilling to give our troops the armor that they need, unwilling to have enough troops in place, unwilling to give them the humvees that they deserve to protect them, unwilling to have a coalition that is adequate to be able to defend our interests.

“Our own intelligence agency has told us they’re creating more terrorists, not less; they’re making us less safe, not more. I think Americans are sick and tired of this game.

“These Republicans are afraid to stand up and debate a real veteran on this topic, and they’re afraid to debate — you know, they want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men.

“Well, we’re going to have a real debate in this country about this policy. The bottom line is, these Republicans want to distort this policy. And this time it won’t work, because we are going to stay in their face with the truth.

“And no Democrat is going to be bullied by these people, by these kinds of attacks that have no place in American politics. It’s time to set our policy correct.

“They have a stand still and lose policy in Iraq, and they have a cut and run policy in Afghanistan. And the fact is our troops, who have served heroically, who deserve better, deserve leadership that is up to their sacrifice, period.”

John Kerry, D-Gonads

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