GOP really should drop the whole war hero subject

August 27, 2004|By Bill Maher

LOS ANGELES - New rule: Republicans should really give up trying to spin John Kerry's war record. He could use his medals as roach clips for a pot party with Ho Chi Minh, and it's still better than the Texas Air National Guard.

Ever since Iowa, right-wing Web sites have been trying to chip away at John Kerry's military service in Vietnam.

First they faked a picture of him with Jane Fonda as she spoke at an anti-war rally. Then they tried to make it seem like throwing away his medals magically undid the heroics he performed in country. Now there's a whispering campaign that only a showoff gets a Silver Star for courage under fire and only a crybaby goes home with three Purple Hearts.

They're also strongly hinting that Max Cleland lost at least one of his legs in a bar fight.

Follow their logic: Only an ambitious, social-climbing weasel would volunteer for combat when he didn't have to. We all know what real heroes do. When Uncle Sam calls, they run. And get their teeth cleaned in Selma.

Maybe it doesn't matter what President Bush did in the war. OK, maybe he was in rehab. But that's not the issue. A lot of good people didn't fight in Vietnam. Dick Cheney. Trent Lott. Pat Buchanan. Rush Limbaugh. They were all patriots, and I'm sure they all had their reasons for living while other men died. Maybe they wanted to give the Viet Cong a fighting chance. (There were a lot more of us than them.) Maybe sending Dick Cheney - like using battlefield nukes - would have been just piling on.

But let's not pretend that John Kerry's service can be mucked up, spun and tarnished down to the level of George Bush's "service."

That's not only unpatriotic, it's just silly.

President Bush should publicly tell his supporters to stop sliming Mr. Kerry. It would be a nice gesture. If patriotism isn't enough reason to do it, Mr. Bush should do it for his father. In 1988, there was a whispering campaign about his war record. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

George H. W. Bush was 20 years old when he ditched his Avenger dive-bomber in the shark-infested waters off Chi Chi Jima.

He lived to become a truly fourth-rate president who was ridden out of Washington on a rail, but he was also a hero.

We're told that showing the coffins of the troops is bad for morale, and that even having Ted Koppel read their names dishonors them.

You know what dishonors the troops? Hinting around that a Purple Heart is kind of a publicity stunt.

Just drop the whole war hero subject.

Someone had to run against John Glenn for senator. I'm guessing they were classy enough not to suggest that Senator Glenn didn't really go into space. Or that he was just doing it to impress chicks. Or that the National Guard made you a better astronaut.

Bush supporters have to find another category in which to compare their candidates. Because in the "war hero/not a war hero" category, Mr. Kerry gets the checkmark under "war hero."

How about this: George Bush's wife is less yappy than John Kerry's wife. If you choose your candidate based on whose wife is the least yappy, Mr. Bush is your man.

If you choose based on who has killed America's enemies in combat, and risked his life to save the lives of his men, it's not George Bush.

Bill Maher hosts HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.

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