On Feb. 5, Mr. Kerry reacted to Massachusetts' highest court's decision legalizing same-sex marriages by saying, "I personally believe the court is dead wrong." But when asked on Feb. 24 why he believed the decision was not correct, he shot back, "I didn't say it wasn't."
These two statements can be harmonized. In the Feb. 5 statement, Kerry used the expression "I personally believe," whereas in the Feb. 24 statement, he was answering a question about what he "believed." Arguably there is a difference between "believing" something and "personally believing" something. Perhaps, "personal belief" relates more to instinctive feelings a person has. This is particularly notable since in the first statement the belief is about the decision being "wrong," while in the later statement, he's responding to a question about whether the decision is "correct." There are subtle distinctions between the instinctive, personal feelings about whether permitting gay marriage is right or wrong, and the more intellectual, lawyerly analysis of whether a judicial decision is incorrect. Kerry could thus have "personally believed" that the decision was "wrong," by simply feeling his own emotions, and the use of the heated expression "dead wrong" strongly suggests that this was the nature of his Feb. 5 statement.
To have a belief about whether the decision was "correct," however, he would need to study the relevant state constitutional text and the case law of the Massachusetts courts and engage in some elaborate reasoning, which he has not done. Thus, he could correctly assert on Feb. 24 that he had never said that he believed the decision was incorrect. The reporter was asking him to explain why the decision was incorrect, and, not having studied the law, he was in no position to respond with any legitimate legal analysis. Yet, his personal belief that gay marriage is wrong had led him earlier to a genuine "personal belief" that the state court was doing something that was "dead wrong."
Kerryisms, they're enough to make you appreciate Bushisms.