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How Much Play Should The Press Give The Kerry Gaffe?

Well, oops. With just one week left until the midterm elections, John Kerry has given the White House something to talk about other than its unpopular war and those pesky Congressional scandals. As you have no doubt heard by now, Kerry said this to a group of students: "If you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't you get stuck in Iraq." The White House, surely elated to have such a gift fall in its lap, immediately pounced. "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful," said President Bush. "The members of the U.S. military are plenty smart and plenty brave and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology."

Kerry insists his comments weren't an insult – just a botched joke. (He says he left out the word "us" – as in "If you don't you get us stuck in Iraq.") He maintains that he was talking about the president and his administration, not the troops. And, he says, the White House knows as much and are exploiting the situation anyway. Kerry also had some criticism for the press. "This is Swift Boat stuff all over again," he said this morning on "Imus." "Somebody says something, and they get excited and they love and have fun, because oh boy, isn't this good, you've got a controversy. But look behind the controversy. The controversy is based on a lie."

Which raises the question – should it be getting the coverage it is? The story is dominating the 24 hour cable networks and the blogs. It led all three network newscasts last night, and all three morning shows today. The New York Daily News put "Kerry Kalamity" in its cover. All this over a missing "us?" That isn't to say that the press should be ignoring the controversy – thanks to the White House's reaction to Kerry's comments, this is a legitimate, if small, political story. But isn't that about it?

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