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What is it about Democrats and Florida?

September 18, 2007 | 11:47 am

Maybe John Kerry should have stayed underground. At the least, he might consider staying away from college campuses.

A bad joke about Iraq that Kerry cracked at Pasadena City College days before last year's fiercely contested midterm election caused his fellow Democrats to cringe, sparking memories of much that seemed wrong with his 2004 presidential bid. And it led him, under duress, to cancel campaign appearances for several of his party's candidates and to remove himself from the public scene for a while.

Now, his appearance Monday at the University of Florida has led to a mushrooming controversy spurred by the videotaped arrest of a student who was giving him a hard time.

As the tape vividly captured, and as was reported in the local newspaper, school police sought to remove Andrew Meyer, 21, as he harangued Kerry from a microphone set up for audience questions. Meyer protested and struggled with the officers. Then, as he howled in protest, they tasered him.

Today, the incident led to a small student protest, the suspension of two officers involved in the arrest, pending a probe, and a news conference by University of Florida President Bernie Machen. Clearly, the dissection of what happened and whether police overreacted has just begun.

Kerry felt compelled to issue the following statement:

"In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but again I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of answering him when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted."

He had also felt compelled, as he watched the melee unfold before him, to unleash his not-so-well-honed wit. In an attempt to defuse the situation (an effort that fails miserably), he says of Meyer: "Unfortunately, he's not available to come up here and swear me in as president."

John Kerry and humor ... a lethal combination.

-- Don Frederick

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