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“Dishonest And Dishonorable”: Service Record; Trump, McCain, And Republican Contempt For Veterans

As soon as Donald Trump brayed that John McCain is “not a war hero” and went on to mock his suffering in North Vietnamese captivity, the righteous reaction of Republicans was entirely predictable. Nearly every would-be presidential candidate in the GOP, humiliated and worried by Trump’s sudden rise in the polls, immediately sought to wrap the loud-mouthed celebrity’s gaffe around his neck. No doubt some of them, like Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of his Arizona colleague, were truly incensed by Trump’s slur. But either way, the incident presented an irresistible opportunity to stoke public indignation against an opponent whose taunting has become unbearable, even as his rise appears inexorable.

Whether this episode will cost Trump the admiration of the Tea Party horde remains uncertain. Many of them already dislike McCain and may hear Trump’s insults as brutal candor.  But in denigrating a war hero to advance himself, the casino mogul did nothing more or less than what other “conservatives” have done for political expediency in elections past. Nobody should be shocked to hear a right-wing chicken-hawk disparaging a worthy veteran at this late date. In the Republican Party, it is standard operating procedure — and for any Republican to pretend otherwise now is risibly hypocritical.

Need we recall every example of this profoundly distasteful and unpatriotic conduct? One of the most poisonous occurred in 2002, when a Georgia Republican named Saxby Chambliss ran ads suggesting that Senator Max Cleland, a Vietnam War hero who had lost both legs and one arm in an accidental grenade explosion, lacked the guts to face down Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Cleland, a Democrat who had served in the Veterans Administration under President Carter, had cast a vote protecting the rights of civil service workers in the new Department of Homeland Security, thus earning him a smear at the hands of Chambliss — one of those smooth favorite sons who had nimbly avoided the Vietnam draft.

When Cleland spoke up against President George W. Bush two years later, Ann Coulter sniped at him with an even nastier shot:

“Max Cleland should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefields of Vietnam,” she wrote, describing his misfortune as “an accident during a routine non-combat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman …. Luckily for Cleland’s political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam.” Ugly and appalling, even from her reliably foul mouth — and replete with lying insinuation. Although he lost his limbs in an accident — when a young infantryman dropped a live grenade that Cleland picked up — he is an authentic war hero who won a Silver Star for “exceptionally valorous action” at the Battle of Khe Sanh.

According to the official citation:

When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Continuing to expose himself, Capt. Cleland organized his men into a work party to repair the battalion communications equipment which had been damaged by enemy fire. His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

That action took place four days before the accident that maimed Cleland and sent him into years of depression from which he emerged, with great courage, to lead a life of service to his fellow veterans and his country. He possesses a kind of nobility and grace that the likes of Coulter and Chambliss could not even comprehend.

The Cleland episode served as a prelude to the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” assault on John Kerry, another heroic veteran who returned home to testify and organize against the same terrible war in which he had served with such distinction. Kerry’s brave dissent brought him the lasting enmity of the Republican right — and, when he ran for president in 2004, a litany of outlandish claims about his own highly decorated service, for which he had earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

Those false charges were concocted and publicized, as I reported at the time, with money provided by Texas millionaires allied with the Bush family and their political boss Karl Rove. The Republicans led by Rove went so far as to mock Kerry’s Purple Hearts on the floor of their convention. Their aim was not only to ruin Kerry’s reputation, but to deflect attention from the highly questionable service record of George W. Bush — a subject about which he had lied shamelessly in his own 1999 campaign autobiography, A Charge To Keep.

Ultimately, Kerry and the Navy vets who had actually served with him refuted all of the bogus Swift Boat accusations. By then, however, the political damage was done. He had lost a close election to a man whose presidential candidacy was originally rejected by most voters, and whose presidency came to be seen as a tragic mistake by most Americans.

Among those who spoke up on Kerry’s behalf, unsurprisingly, was none other than his friend and fellow veteran McCain, who denounced the Swift Boat campaign as “dishonest and dishonorable.” Recalling how supporters of George W. Bush spread lies about his own service during the 2000 primaries, McCain told the Associated Press that the “independent” Swift Boat ads attacking Kerry were “the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,” and called on the Bush White House to repudiate them. Equally unsurprisingly, Bush rejected McCain’s plea for decency. The Bush family, including Jeb — who once considered posing as a conscientious objector to avoid the Vietnam draft — quietly let the dirty tricksters do their dirty work, as usual.

But that wasn’t quite the end, as blogger extraordinaire Oliver Willis reported over the weekend. On the day before his brother’s second inauguration in January 2005, Jeb Bush sent a groveling letter (on official Governor of Florida stationery) to George E. Day, one of the leaders of the Swift Boat campaign. “As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something.” he wrote pompously, “I simply cannot express in words how much I value the [Swift Boat Veterans’] willingness to stand up against John Kerry. Their efforts, like their service to their country, speak volumes about what matters most.”

On Saturday, Jeb quickly seized the chance to pose as a defender of those who have served, while bashing his rival Trump. “Enough with the slanderous attacks,” he tweeted. “@SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – especially POWs – have earned our respect and admiration.”

For those who know the story behind Jeb’s feigned outrage, that tweet could evoke nausea, or laughter, or perhaps both. What it could not do is erase the stain on his character that this episode has revealed. Sure, Donald Trump is a demented, obnoxious character who lacks moral values. But somehow Jeb, a tough-talking weenie and sanctimonious fraud, seems even worse.

 

By; Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Featured Post, Editors Blog, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republicans, Veterans | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Oh, The Wayward Priorities”: If Republicans Hated War Like They Hate Obamacare, There Wouldn’t Be an Iraq Debacle

The Affordable Care Act might eventually be a terrible idea for the country. Perhaps, as Paul Broun (R-GA) once said, “Obamacare is going to destroy everything that we know as a nation.” Maybe Michelle Bachmann is right when she claimed, “I believe God is going to answer our prayers and we’ll be freed from the yoke of Obamacare.”In addition to GOP lawmakers making statements vehemently condemning the Affordable Care Act, they’ve tried over 35 times to repeal the law in Congress.

When it comes to big government healthcare programs, conservatives have likened the ACA to everything from communism to death panels. However, when it comes to war, the GOP doesn’t see Uncle Sam picking the pockets of citizens. The $4 to $6 trillion that the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars will cost taxpayers never evokes anger from the Tea Party. Rather, it’s funding someone else’s surgery that really gets conservatives furious. Sadly, if Republicans viewed healthcare programs in the same manner as they viewed war over a decade ago, we wouldn’t be in the gigantic debacle called Iraq.

Soon after the death of three thousand Americans on 9/11, Republicans worked vehemently to sell the Iraq War. In 2002, the same Bill Krystal who now bemoans Obamacare believed a war in Iraq “could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East.”In 2002, Vice President Cheney in a speech stated the “entire world knows beyond dispute that Saddam Hussein holds weapons of mass destruction in large quantities.”In early 2003, the Bush administration told the UN Security Council, “Either you’re with us or against us.”

Any opposition leading up to the Iraq War Resolution was met with political attacks and even Vietnam War heroes weren’t safe from Karl Rove and a united Republican Party. Rove and Rep. Saxby Chambliss led the charge against Senator Max Cleland and questioned his patriotism for criticizing the impending insurgent war in the Middle East. Chambliss attacked the triple amputee Vietnam Veteran “for breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” in addition to besmirching his character for having the audacity to be against the Iraq War Resolution. In order to better understand the mood of the time period, it’s important to note that Chambliss got a medical deferment from Vietnam because of a football injury to his knee and Rove has never joined the military.

When General Eric Shinseki advocated a far greater troop level before the invasion-closer to a number like 300,000 soldiers — he too was denigrated by Republicans. However, by 2007, even Lindsay Graham was quoted in a New York Times article as admitting Shinseki was right. As a result of invading and occupying a country as large as Iraq with an insufficient number of troops (in addition to a number of other mistakes), Bush announced a surge of troops in 2007. Essentially, this surge worked as a draft in that it prolonged tours of duty, keeping American soldiers in combat longer than in any other war in U.S. history. This prolonged time in battle directly led to the record number of PTSD cases as well as exacerbating the issue of suicide in the military.

The Iraq War Resolution passed with 215 House Republicans voting for it and 126 Democrats voting against the war. In the Senate, 48 out of 49 Republicans voted for it while 21 Democrats voted against going into Iraq. After the initial invasion, President Bush addressed the United Nations in late 2003 and declared America’s invasion a noble endeavor:

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world… Across Iraq, life is being improved by liberty.

While the country was still in shock, President Bush spoke confidently about the reasons for U.S. involvement in Iraq.

In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld justified the rush to war (and the fact Humvees weren’t protected from IED’s with extra armor) by saying, “As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” In 2007, after a civil war between Shia and Sunni threatened to destroy Iraq, President Bush addressed the nation in a speech defending a surge in troop levels:

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Changing his tune from 2003, and possibly forshadowing 2014, Bush advocated widening the war because “the consequences of failure are clear.”

Today, after all the monumental sacrifices made by American soldiers and their families, and with all the money spent nation building in Iraq, America has to contend with a new threat. Extremist militants named ISIS now have control of Fallujah (a one hour drive from Bagdad) and just recently conquered Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities and the home of two million people. Of course, the GOP is now changing the narrative from Bush’s speeches to a recent call for further military action in Iraq. Interestingly, no word yet has been heard from the Tea Party about the financial cost of further military action in Iraq.

It says something about a political party when a health care law is the end of the world, but an insurgent war is something worthy of attacking even a triple amputee war veteran to defend. If only one could go back in time and tie in an amnesty clause or a nationalized healthcare law to the Iraq War Resolution, then maybe GOP lawmakers wouldn’t have worked so hard to send the United States into the Iraq debacle. The truth is that the ACA, even if it falls short of its promises, won’t do nearly as much damage to this country as the Iraq War. Analyzing the GOP’s reaction to both will give you a good idea of its priorities.

 

By: H. A. Goodman, The Huffington Post Blog, June 15, 2014

 

 

 

June 17, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Iraq, Iraq War | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Village Idiots”: The 13 Craziest, Most Offensive Things Said By Politicians In 2013

Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy limiting this year’s list to just 13 statements but here are the craziest and most offensive things said by American politicians this year:

13. “He’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

— Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), quoted by the Bangor Daily News, on Democratic rival Troy Jackson (D) who he said has a “black heart” and should go back in the woods “and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work.”

12. “Mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody. And now we feel like, oh gosh, people are too stupid unless we force them to sit and listen to instructions. It’s just incredible.”

— Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), quoted by Right Wing Watch, adding that it all reminded him of the Soviet Union.

11. “I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

— North Carolina State Senator Tommy Tucker (R), quoted by the Raleigh News and Observer, to Goldsboro News-Argus publisher Hal Tanner who was opposing legislation to change public notice requirements for local government.

10. “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

— Arkansas State Rep. Nate Bell (R), on Twitter.

9. “This administration has so many Muslim brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

— Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), in an interview with WND Radio, explaining what he sees as President Obama’s downplaying of the threat of radical Islam.

8. “More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President. Should’ve started with yours.”

— Sarah Palin, quoted by the New York Times, speaking to CPAC about President Obama’s gun control proposals.

7. “A holstered gun is not a deadly weapon… But anything can be used as a deadly weapon. A credit card can be used to cut somebody’s throat.”

— New Hampshire state Rep. Dan Dumaine (R), quoted by the Concord Monitor, opposing a move to ban guns for the chamber floor.

6. “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas State Rep. Jody Laubenberg (R), quoted by the AP, arguing that a bill restricting abortion needed no exemptions for case of rape.

5. “Assault weapons is a misused term used by suburban soccer moms who do not understand what is being discussed here.”

— Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R), quoted by the Missouri News Horizon, on efforts to ban assault weapons.

4. “First of all, the kid’s going to grow up in Gracie Mansion. So I’m going to say, ‘Kid, don’t complain.'”

— Anthony Weiner (D), quoted by the Staten Island Advance, on what he’ll eventually tell his now 18-month old son about the sexting scandal that ended his congressional career.

3. “I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one.”

— Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), quoted by Politico, when asked if his views on gay marriage were changing.

2. “He’s partly right on that.”

— Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia), an OB-GYN, quoted by the Marietta Daily Journal, on former Rep. Todd Akn’s (R-MO) “legitimate rape” comments.

1. “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

— Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), quoted by Salon, suggested a fetus might masturbate.

By: Taegan Goddard, The Cloakroom, The Week, December 27, 2013

January 2, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Grand Old Party Of Nihilists And Cranks”: The Politics Of Destruction With The Values Of Zealots

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Republican Saxby Chambliss, Georgia’s senior senator, was considered a steadfast conservative. The American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime score of 92, while the Club for Growth has scored him at 83. He earns an A from the National Rifle Association.

But a couple of years ago, Chambliss embarked upon an exercise that would merely have cemented his stature as a power broker as recently as the administration of George W. Bush: He joined Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, to form a bipartisan group of senators working to come up with a deal to whittle down the deficit. In other words, he considered compromise with Democrats.

In our current warped political universe, that was enough to earn Chambliss a potential challenger from the right, and he decided not to seek re-election. Chastened by Chambliss’ experience, none of the Georgia Republicans running for his vacant seat wants to occupy the same ZIP code with the words “compromise” and “bipartisan.”

This is what the Grand Old Party has come to: It’s now led by nihilists whose only politics are those of destruction and whose only values are those of zealots. There may be reasonable Republicans remaining in office, but they’ve been bullied into compliance and cowed into silence.

If you don’t believe that, listen to the growing drumbeat for the impeachment of President Obama — despite the glaring lack of evidence that he has committed impeachable offenses. (Having the temerity to win a second term is not an impeachable crime.) While such talk was once restricted to the nutters — men like U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), who has said the president’s impeachment would “be a dream come true” — it has leaked into the GOP’s water supply.

Witness the recent off-the-cuff remarks of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who, though a standard-bearer for the hard right, has been considered a thoughtful and rational man. At a recent meeting with constituents, Coburn declared that the president was coming “perilously close” to the standards for impeachment.

Last month, at a tribute in his honor, the retiring Chambliss obliquely urged his party to come to its senses. He didn’t explicitly mention the GOP’s spiral into right-wing madness, but he did speak of the importance of his work with the Gang of Six, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I don’t mind crossing party lines. If Republicans had a patent on all the good ideas, we’d be in power forever. We don’t have a patent on all those good ideas,” he said.

But his intended audience has taken another lesson from Chambliss’ bipartisanship: If you even consider it, you will be labeled a RINO — Republican In Name Only — by the tea party activists who now wield enormous power in the Republican Party. Having chased Chambliss off, they have taken to hectoring Georgia’s junior Republican senator, Johnny Isakson, for his failure to jump with enthusiasm to the idea of shutting down the government over Obamacare.

Tea Party types have also targeted longtime senator Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee. In a letter urging Alexander to retire, they claimed that “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous.”

In response, Alexander penned a remarkable op-ed in The Tennessean defending his record as a politician who has occasionally reached across the aisle. “I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech,” he wrote.

However, such time-honored traditions of governance have little effect on the white-hot rage of radicals who want to toss out any conservative who remembers the lessons of his middle-school civics classes. They have no respect for the basic give-and-take on which representative democracies thrive, no real interest in improving the nation’s fortunes. So, no, Senator Alexander, they don’t care about solving problems.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, August 31, 2013

September 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Misleading Media Picture”: Why The National Security Agency’s PRISM Program Is Nothing To Fear

It has been revealed that the National Security Agency has been employing PRISM, a $20-million-per-year program that monitors the movement of individuals through digital data, for roughly six years. PRISM has gained access to private information and online correspondence through nine technology companies here in the U.S. The USA PATRIOT Act and the Protect America Act of 2007 (PAA) opened the door for this surveillance program to take shape.

President Obama and the NSA have been criticized for a lack of transparency and the program’s assumed targeting of American citizens. The president said during a press conference on Friday that PRISM does not target American citizens or those living in the U.S., stating, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls” and “They are not looking at people’s names and they are not looking at content.” The surveillance program was structured to exclusively monitor correspondence between foreign individuals—solely the lines of communication between these individuals that pass through the U.S.

PRISM may not be the top-secret program of government overreach that many are trying to portray it as. The program is lawful (as long as American citizens and individuals in the U.S. are not monitored) under PAA, and for six years the entire program was fully recognized by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The NSA still must have a reasonable cause for intercepting communications, appeal to a federal court and gain permission to monitor any correspondence—all of which include Congressional oversight.

The NSA recently declassified a slideshow that outlines PRISM on a very basic level. This is what is currently known about the surveillance program: There were a total of nine technology companies included in PRISM—Microsoft in September, 2007, Yahoo in March, 2008, Google, Facebook, and PalTalk in 2009, YouTube in September, 2010, Skype and AOL in early 2011, and Apple in October of 2012.

While officials from AOL, PalTalk, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple have all denied any knowledge of PRISM or working with the U.S. government on such a program, the NSA would still be within legal parameters if they monitored any data from these companies with a court order.

According to the PRISM slideshow, the types of materials they seek are email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, stored data, VoIP (phone calls made over the internet), file transfers, video conferencing, log-ins, time stamps, and any information provided on social networking sites.

The NSA slideshow makes three points defining the necessity of such a program: “Much of the world’s communications flow through the U.S.,” “A target’s phone call, email or chat will take the cheapest path, not the physically most direct path—you can’t always predict the path,” and “Your target’s communications could easily be flowing into and through the U.S.”

Basically, what we’ve learned about the NSA and PRISM is nothing new. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said of PRISM, “Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this, and to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.” In other words, these actions have been lawfully taking place for six years and were approved by Congress with the effortless passages of the PATRIOT Act in 2001 and the Protect America Act in 2007.

The picture that is being painted of PRISM—a secretive surveillance program that unlawfully delves into the average American’s private life—is misleading. PRISM, if carried out properly, is only used to monitor suspicious patterns of communications abroad. If individuals choose to use means of communication that are based here in the U.S., the U.S. government, with the proper court approval, is entirely within its rights to seek out information it deems necessary for national security purpose—as long as Congress continues to authorize the laws that allow such programs.

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, June 7, 2013

June 10, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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