Lott: ‘I kind of felt sorry for John Kerry’

Published 7:40 pm Friday, November 3, 2006

Can a political blunder be a bonding experience?

“I kind of felt sorry for John Kerry yesterday,” a smiling Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., told a group of state business leaders Thursday — and he didn’t seem to mean it in a snide way.

Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and his party’s presidential nominee in 2004, apologized Wednesday for what he called a “botched joke” about the war in Iraq.

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The Vietnam veteran said he meant no offense to troops when he told a college audience Monday that young people might get “stuck in Iraq” if they do not make it through the educational system.

President Bush and other Republicans have seized on Kerry’s remark, calling it insulting to U.S. troops.

Speaking to about 1,000 people at a social event hosted by the Mississippi Economic Council, a state chamber of commerce, Lott said: “I almost felt like calling John Kerry and saying, ’John, apologize and go home.”’

Lott knows firsthand about being publicly criticized for what was intended to be an offhanded remark.

In December 2002, Lott lost the chance to regain his position as Senate majority leader after saying at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that the country “wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years” if it had elected Thurmond president in 1948. Thurmond was a strong segregationist at the time.

Critics called Lott’s remark racially insensitive. Lott’s extensive public apologies included an appearance on Black Entertainment Television, when he pledged to try to improve race relations.

Lott is seeking fourth Senate term in next Tuesday’s election, and is expected to easily defeat Democratic state Rep. Erik Fleming and Libertarian Harold Taylor, who are running low-budget campaigns.

Lott told the business audience Thursday that the first phone call he and his wife, Tricia, received last year after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their beachside Pascagoula home was from Kerry and his wife, Teresa.

“Obviously, philosophically we’re not very close,” Lott said, “but on a personal basis, we have a relationship.”