Republicans and their media backups have hit on another issue they are working furiously. Remarks Senator Kerry was directing at the White House have been characterized as defaming troops in the field. It is, of course, common knowledge that young men and women with limited educational prospects often join the armed forces – – that in fact, educational benefits are often offered as an inducement to encourage young people to sign up. That in no way suggests that the enlisted men and women now serving in our armed forces are not well-trained or lack intelligence. As Kerry said when his critics erupted, anyone who suggests I was criticizing our military is “just plain crazy.”
Curiously, during the 2004 presidential election it was Republicans who thought it appropriate to dispute Kerry’s military service, questioning his medals and his accounts of events. He served but because afterwards he questioned a mission that had descended into a killing-fields stalemate he was forever the butt of jokes and venom. It was a low point on the political landscape to see so many of the delegates at the Republican National Convention sporting those purple Band-aids mocking Kerry. What did the party leaders say to condemn or do to halt that disgraceful spectacle?
Yet Sean Hannity, on his radio show, called Kerry’s remarks a “defining moment” for Democrats – – an insult to our military that should be disclaimed by every Democratic candidate now running and that they showed “what these people are all about.” It is fascinating that many of the critics who proclaim so vehemently their patriotism have never served themselves. Or was that you Mr. Hannity shivering in a Korean outpost in winter trying to decide whether you or your prisoners should consume the last of the rations? Maybe that was you hip deep in the muck of a Vietnamese jungle or taking fire on your swift boat? No? What were you doing at the time, bar-tending, working in construction, honing your radio skills?
And you Mr. O’Reilly, on what field of battle did you strap on a weapon and confront another armed combatant? By what right do you claim to know the thoughts and service of those who actually faced an enemy on the battlefield, thereby earning the right to talk about their experiences?
Mr. Limbaugh, your medical reprieves from combat do not give you license now to claim military status simply by saying you support the troops and the Republican party, that group of stalwarts who have gotten away with years of phony rhetoric about how brave they are and what monumental feats they have accomplished in protecting the nation. How many of your politicians have stood ready to don a uniform and go to war? What’s next on your agenda now that you’ve exhausted (one hopes) your imitation of Michael J. Fox? Maybe you could do a little skit of a vet struggling with a prosthesis.
As for you, Mr. President, what was it they called your group, “the champagne unit” out of Texas? – – the place where all good men with some political clout went. And where did you serve, was it Houston? Some place in Georgia? Some of us have forgotten. And why, at some point, did you lose your flight status for failing to show up for a physical? Save your outrage for another time. The country is outraged enough at the mess you’ve created in Iraq. And your partisan comments that, if Democrats win, the country is at risk are outrageous. You seem to have forgotten you are supposed to be the president of a country not a party.
Sadly, Senator McCain joined the chorus of voices calling on Senator Kerry to apologize to the troops. Do you want to be president so badly, Mr. McCain, that you are willing to sell out, not only to the religious right but that cadre of right-wing loud-mouths? Do you really think that taking this tack redounds to your credit? Usually you are perfectly capable of speaking off the cuff; yesterday you read from what one has to assume were the talking points of the moment. You served the country with honor, but you allowed yourself to accept being ambushed by the party in the 2000 primary, to forgive in silence the insults to you and your family and to creep back into the fold by 2004. Your luster has been dimmed by your ambition and by 2008 you will be just another old soldier who isn’t gone but has faded away.
So now all the right-wing pundits and Republican apologists have something else to focus on besides the ‘progress’ we’re making in Iraq and how we need to fight “them” over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. But instead of the right’s current favorite question “Do you want to win the war?” we should be asking “What would victory look like?”

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