"patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson, April 7, 1775
Nothing quite brings out the scoundrel like an election year, and there's nothing quite like the Republican politician to help promote the definition of scoundrel. While elections typically involve smears and questionable ads, I can't remember in my lifetime when any Democrat ever questioned the patriotism of an opponent in a national race. Republicans, on the other hand, seem quite willing to pull that card out of their hand when all other measures have failed, and desperation is sinking in.
I take you back to the senatorial race of 2002. For those that don't remember, America had gone quite insane in 2002. Bush, Cheney and the cabal of bloodthirsty chickenhawk oilmen in the White House were using the attacks of 9/11 to drum up rationale and support for an invasion of Iraq. Anyone who dared question the evidence of impending doom was accused of aiding and abetting terrorism. Yellow ribbons and flags and anything vaguely "patriotic" were flying off the shelves and shoved in the faces of everyone by smug armchair warriors.
It was in this toxic environment that triple-amputee Senator Max Cleland (D-GA)
was running for re-election. He lost both legs and an arm in Viet Nam when a grenade exploded. He was awarded both a Silver Star and Bronze Star for valorous action. Running against him was Saxby Chambliss, a Republican who had gotten student deferrments
rather than serve. Yet somehow, Chambliss had the gall to create an ad juxtaposing Cleland and Osama bin Laden (this was when Bush wanted him "dead or alive", before Bush stopped caring and stopped looking for him):
Despite Cleland being ahead in the polls, rednecks in GA bought the idea that Cleland was a turrist-loving Amerrka-hater, and lost the election. (NOTE: There are also rumors that this was the first incidence of the Diebold voting machines being hacked, but that's another blog for another day. I have the hack code, but it's in a password-locked ZIP file).
Republicans pulled this one again during the 2004 presidential elections. By that time, the Iraq War was well underway, with the "Coalition of the Willing" providing support. France was not willing, so anything and everything French was deemed cowardly and anti-American. Some people accused John Kerry of "looking" French. Another group (what would be considered a Super PAC today) questioned his well-documented veteran history.
The "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" accused Kerry of lying about his part in a gun battle on a river in Viet Nam which led to Kerry being awarded the Silver Star (Kerry also got 3 purple hearts for 3 separate wounds in battle). Because the group was wink-wink nudge-nudge not officially affiliated with the Bush campaign, Bush (who served in a "champaigne" National Guard unit, and was AWOL for a year) was able to wash his hands of it, despite benefiting from the fallout. There were also the pictures of Kerry (who knew of the atrocities of the Viet Nam war first-hand) protesting and speaking out against the Viet Nam war that were trotted out, further implying that Kerry was a yellow-bellied terrorist sympathizer who didn't have the stones to lead us in a time of war. As we all know - Kerry lost that election.
All of which leads us to this year's election season...
Tammy Duckworth is an Iraqi war veteran who is running as a Democrat for a US House seat in Illinois. She enlisted in the Army and chose to be a helicopter pilot, because that was one of the few roles available to women in actual combat. She lost both legs below the knee
when a RPG hit her chopper. She received a Purple Heart, Air Medal, and Army Commendation Medal. She signed up for - and fought in, and was maimed in - Bush's unnecessary war in Iraq.
Running for re-election against her is a particularly unpleasant piece of work named Joe Walsh (R-IL) (NOT
the guitarist for The Eagles). He has been accused of not paying child support and driving on a suspended license. He is a climate change denyer and favorite of the Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity. He also has never served in the military.
That's why it's particularly aggregious for him to say that Tammy Duckworth is not a hero
"Understand something about John McCain," the congressman explained. "His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, 'Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!' He didn't want to do it, wouldn't do it."
"That’s what’s so noble about our heroes," Walsh continued. "Now I'm running against a woman who, my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That's why we're so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done."
That's right: Joe Walsh says that Tammy Duckworth - who was shot down by the enemy in the helicopter she was piloting - is not a "true hero".
Naturally this has created a big stink, especially among Iraq war veterans' groups. VoteVets released a statement
condemning Walsh's comments:
Joe Walsh’s disgust for our veterans’ sacrifices knows no bounds. First, he falsely and maliciously claims that Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs in Iraq didn’t have much of a record of service. Now, he denigrates that same American hero for talking about how her experience shaped her worldview and strengthened her resolve to serve even more – a conversation that isn’t just legitimate to have, but crucial as America charts its course domestically and internationally. This is a new low for this deadbeat dad. Telling a veteran to shut up on the 4th of July is beyond the pale. We are past the point of calling on Joe Walsh to apologize. He should step aside and and stop embarrassing his district and America.
We won't know the fallout from the comments by this scoundrel until November. Until then, this needs to be put out there for all to see by Ms. Duckworth and her campaign and supporters. Voters bought the snakeoil in GA in 2002 and nationally in 2004. I seriously doubt the voters of Illinois will buy it again.
Happy Independence Day to all the non-soundrels out there. May TRUE patriotism wash over you today.