- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

5:07 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Thrust into the midst of the midterm election campaign, Sen. John Kerry apologized today to “any service member, family member or American who was offended” by remarks deemed by Republicans and Democrats alike to be insulting to U.S. forces in Iraq.

Six days before the election, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee said he sincerely regretted his words were “misinterpreted to imply anything negative about those in uniform.”

In a brief statement, Kerry attacked President Bush for a “failed security policy.” Yet his apology, issued after prominent Democrats had urged him to cancel public appearances, was designed to quell a controversy that party leaders feared would stall their drive for big gains on Nov. 7.

Kerry beat a gradual retreat in his return to the national campaign spotlight. Earlier in the day, appearing on the radio program “Imus in the Morning,” the Massachusetts senator said he was “sorry about a botched joke” about President Bush. He heaped praise on the troops, adamantly accused Republicans of twisting his words and said it was the commander in chief and his aides who “owe America an apology for this disaster in Iraq.”

Democrats cringed, though, at the prospect of the Massachusetts senator becoming the face of the party for the second consecutive national campaign. “No one wants to have the 2004 election replayed,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

A congressional candidate in Iowa said swiftly he no longer wanted him to appear at a scheduled rally. Kerry abandoned plans to attend events in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. “Whatever the intent, Senator Kerry was wrong to say what he said. He needs to apologize to our troops,” said Rep. Harold Ford Jr., locked in a close Senate race in Tennessee.

“It was a real dumb thing to say. He should say sorry,” added Claire McCaskill, the Democrat in an equally tight Senate campaign in Missouri.

The White House accepted Kerry’s statement as a legitimate apology.

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