Oh, those crazy right-wingers. They blast you as unpatriotic if you’re not a war-monger – but when you actually fight and sacrifice in a war, they try to denigrate you and your service. One of the best examples of this was what Republican Saxby Chambliss did in challenging Democrat Sen. Max Cleland the late stages of Cleland’s 2002 re-election bid.
Chambliss, who got student deferments during the Vietnam War, put up a TV ad juxtaposing Vietnam War hero Cleland – who was ahead in the polls – next to the images Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein while criticizing the vet’s votes on homeland security. In fact, Cleland, who had a Master’s degree from Emory University, joined the Army, achieving the rank of Captain. He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valor in combat during the Battle of Khe Sanh on April 4, 1968. But four days later, with a month left on his tour of duty, Cleland’s legs and forearm were shredded by a hand grenade. Republican Vietnam vets John McCain and Chuck Hagel protested Chambliss’ ad, which was subsequently taken down. But the damage was done: Cleland lost to Chambliss 53-46.
Now Republican Rep. Joe Walsh is trying something similar against Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth, in their Illinois contest. Like Chambliss, Walsh has no military experience but feels qualified to scoff at Duckworth’s military service and sacrifice. Think Progress points out that Duckworth is “a double amputee who lost both her legs in Iraq when insurgents hit her helicopter with an RPG in 2004…. Duckworth chose to become a helicopter pilot because few other combat roles are open to women. She has served for more than 20 years, earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and receiving multiple military awards, including a Purple Heart, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal.”
But Joe Walsh finds talking about such heroism galling:
The Tea Party freshman opened the Elk Grove town hall by arguing that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was reluctant to discuss his own military service in 2008, which made him a “noble hero.” By contrast, “Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about,” Walsh said.
WALSH: Understand something about John McCain. 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. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. 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.