3 Jul 2012
Well, the story broke on a couple of blogs this morning and is now working its way up into the “respectable” media. Joe Walsh, the Congressman from the great state of Illinois, is on record as having attacked his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, an army Colonel who lost both of her legs in an attack while she was piloting a helicopter in Iraq, as being “not a hero,” because she talks about her service and her sacrifice as part of her campaign. The story is gaining traction and appears to be getting picked up by more and more news outlets which are broadcasting the appropriate level of outrage for such comments. If they do nothing else well, the mainstream media does do outrage well.
But before we get too confident and start assuming that Walsh has signed his own pink slip with this douchebaggery, I think it’s worth pointing out to everyone that has any stake at all in this election that… This is what Republicans do. We generally avoid partisanship on this page to the extent that we possibly can, but in my adult life, I have only seen this tactic employed by chickenhawk Republicans. When they are running against an opponent who is a decorated veteran with proven evidence of sacrifice for country, and said chickenhawk has nothing in their record that shows a similar capacity for bravery and self-sacrifice… This is what they do. They try to smear their opponent’s record. They attack their service.
Is it an outrageously ballsy, sleazy gambit? Absolutely. However, there’s a simple reason they keep doing it. It works.
Karl Rove did it John McCain in 2000. Employed a whisper campaign on behalf of George W. Bush, suggesting that because McCain endured unimaginable torture in Vietnam, that he might have snakes in his brain and therefore be unfit to lead. Remember Max Cleland, the Senator from Georgia? The triple-amputee who lost his limbs in Vietnam? And need we remind anyone about the sorry spectacle that was the swift-boating of John Kerry? They do it because it works.
It used to be that a person’s military service was sacrosanct in America. An untouchable thing. While we as a nation are probably closer to the late Roman empire (fat, decadent, wealthy, I’m not going to go on here), we still like to think of ourselves as rugged Spartans warriors. We like to lionize soldiers, or pretend we do, while we play “Call of Duty 3” or whatever. And the fact is, that the percentage of active duty military in America is much lower than during most of our previous wars. We lack the visceral connection to war and combat that previous generations have had. So, it’s actually not that big a surprise that someone with the balls to attack someone’s military service somehow, perversely, benefits from doing so.
So, as we head into the Fourth of July, a holiday about patriotism, please remember who the real patriots are… Hint: it’s not the guy who was dodging child support while his opponent was getting her legs blown off in Iraq. But more importantly, don’t let anyone you know forget it. This country has a disconnect with the brutal realities of what war requires of a person. We can’t allow that disconnect to be exploited by the cynical, the craven, the phony patriots among us. That means you, Joe Walsh. You’re not getting away with it, chickenhawk.
Happy Fourth of July!