Back when the Vietnam War was in process, I was not one of the boys who had the money or the grades to get into college without going through the military first. I had two choices when I graduated from high school, joining the military or being drafted into it. The people who avoided the war were people like George Bush. The people who could have escaped it, and did not; the democratic ones, who refused to use connections to avoid service, were men like John Kerry.
So, back to the joke. When humor is examined for logical structure it either depends on exaggeration, tall tales, or it has evolved into the realm of the abstract. In the first instance, Mr. Bush is a comedic genius. In abstract humor there are two lines of logic which run parallel to each other. You are following one of them when suddenly the other intersects, and you realize it has been there all along. This is the money shot. "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member."
If Kerry was being humorous, it was that if you're like Bush, and don't study and learn something useful, you'll make terrible decisions and end up stuck in the worst, most stupid, expensive and moronic adventure in history, the Iraq War.
These prigs demanding an apology "for the troops" remind me of the skit from "The Meaning of Life," a Monty Python movie. In the skit the men are in a trench during World War One. The officer is trying to move them out and keep them from being killed, but they won't have it. They want to give him a mantle clock, which he gracefully accepts and then tries to get back to business. But no. They are moving a big grandfather clock through the trench because there was a confusion during procurement ... then they want to present him with a wristwatch, a cake, a card, a check ...
Finally he gets annoyed and blurts out something which causes a stunned silence.
"Now you've gone and hurt his feelings, Captain."
They all die quibbling about timepieces and cake, and reveling in their own virtue and the insensitivity of the officer class to their feelings.
Maybe things have changed, but I don't remember the military as sensitivity training. As I remember it, there was no joy quite as sweet among sailors as exposing somebody's tender feelings "to see his jaws get tight," as my black friend Chipper used to put it.
Most, if not all of us were perfectly aware that there were a lot of people who were sitting out military service by deferment or through political connections, and that, in the words of John Fogerty, "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son."
The men and women in Iraq know they're stuck there. Some of them have done three and four tours and been extended just when they were thinking they might go home. There may be a few who don't know that, and if so, then there's something to be said for not telling them. In fact, there's something to be said for checking for brain freeze if anybody in Iraq doesn't know they're stuck in hell, courtesy of Bush and company.
Instead of apologizing, Kerry should repeat, slowly and carefully, that anybody who is in school should study hard and get good grades to avoid getting stuck in Iraq. He can say it because he was the kind of guy who was smart enough to avoid Vietnam, but volunteered to go anyway. He's paid his dues and he doesn't need a cuckoo clock from the gang that can't shoot straight.
What he said isn't the same thing as saying you have to be stupid to be in Iraq. Some extraordinarily smart guys who don't have to be there are there, because they have that kind of personal code, like Kerry had during Vietnam. Some sociopaths are there, because the standards are so low they could just set up transfers from the penitentiaries and use Iraq as a half-way house. Most of the uniformed men and women in Iraq are in the middle someplace, and joined because they needed the money and a way to get through college. I seriously doubt there are any of them sitting around trying to deal with hurt feelings around anything Kerry says. If so, they should remember that they don't have to tell anybody and nobody really ought to ask.