Kerry's Explanation of '$87 Billion' Comment Doesn't Wash, Says RNC

July 7, 2008 - 8:30 PM

(Update: Includes comments from Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton.)

(CNSNews.com) - In an interview Wednesday on "Good Morning America," Sen. John Kerry called his now famous "$87 billion" quote about Iraq war appropriations an inarticulate moment "late in the evening when I was dead tired." But news reports at the time indicate Kerry made the comment at a noontime rally, not at night.

Kerry's original remark concerned Senate action on the additional $87 billion the Pentagon had requested for troops in Iraq. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," Kerry said March 16, while speaking at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.

ABC's Diane Sawyer asked the Democrat presidential nominee about the quote during an interview aired Wednesday morning.

"It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries and I didn't say something very clearly," Kerry told Sawyer.

But according to ABC's The Note from March 16, the Kerry rally at Marshall University was slated to begin at noon. It was to be followed by a meeting with local press in Huntington at 1:30 p.m.

That evening on the 6 p.m. edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News' chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, reported on the rally. He called the "$87 billion" line a lapse of "apparent doublespeak" by Kerry.

In newspapers the following day, journalists repeated the comment. The Washington Post ran an article, "Campaign Gets More Personal," which specifically referenced the time of the Marshall University event. The Post's John F. Harris wrote:

" 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it,' he told a group of veterans at a noontime appearance at Marshall University. He went on to explain that he preliminarily backed the request, so long as it was financed not by deficit spending but with a tax surcharge on the wealthy that Bush opposed."

Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton told CNSNews.com the candidate made a mistake in the interview with Sawyer.

"He simply got the time of day wrong," Clanton said. "Campaigns are long, grueling things. It's like one continuous blur."

The Republican National Committee documented Kerry's misstatement in an e-mail Wednesday. The RNC's message was titled, "Perhaps His Watch Was on Paris Time?" The RNC called Kerry's latest version of events his eighth explanation of the $87 billion appropriation vote.

Clanton dismissed the RNC's attack as an attempt to distract from the real issues facing the candidates.

"It's unbelievable that the Bush campaign wants to talk about this at a time when the situation is deteriorating in Iraq," Clanton said. "We've lost over 1,000 troops, attacks on American soldiers have increased every month and terrorists are flooding into Iraq. It's another attempt from George Bush's failures and his wrong choices in Iraq."

E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.

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