Bring it On, Indeed

Josh Marshall

Said Max Cleland today: “For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks.”

Brad DeLong adds:

When I knew him in the Clinton administration, Max Cleland was not an especially partisan guy. I guess being told you are the next thing to a communist because you didn’t lose all four limbs in Vietnam will change someone.

I don’t get it. Putting on the uniform and getting shot at ought to earn a certain measure of respect–even if you come back home and dishonor your former comrades by insinuating they are all baby killing war criminals. But being a veteran does not entitle someone to a stack of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Politics, it has been said, ain’t beanbag. John Kerry and Max Cleland chose to enter that arena. At what point does their voting record as 50-somethings become more relevant in assessing their national security record than their service as junior officers?

Are we really going to take the juvenile position that only people who have earned a Silver Star or higher get to talk about national security issues? And that whatever they say is, by definition, right because they once got shot at? If so, what if they disagree? How can they conduct a debate, since they are all, by definition, right?

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Peter says:

    What they are trying is to remove all issues of national security from the table.

  2. bryan says:

    Not only that, but Cleland’s simile is screwy. Exactly how is Chambliss like a mackerel? It’s confusing.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I’m presuming that they have the interesting quality of simultaneously shining and stinking when exposed to moonlight.

  4. jen says:

    Personally, I’m sick of hearing about it from both sides. At this point, I couldn’t care less who did or didn’t go to Vietnam, did or didn’t serve in the military, or whatever. What’s important is their long-standing record on issues of national security and how they match up against President Bush, who has proven that his innate leadership skills and ability to delegate good, qualified people around him, is quite competant at that part of the job.

    It’s 2004. We need to stop looking at 1964-74 and look ahead. Because this world isn’t getting any safer. The wacko terrorists who want us dead aren’t going away. And our petty bickering only encourages their radical assumptions about our country.

  5. McGehee says:

    This whole thing is ridiculous, and the electorate is going to judge harshly those who try to obfuscate the real issues — Kerry’s (and if necessary Cleland’s) Senate voting records.

    “Oh boo hoo, Georgia voters didn’t re-elect the triple amputee, just because they didn’t like how liberal he’d become as a Senator. What heartless anti-veteran yokels they must be!”


  6. Jim says:

    The Democrats have seem to become bullies. They delight in throwing as much mud as possible: Where was Presdient Bush when he served in the national guard….look at Bush’s family tree….how could he allow Sept 11 to happen. I actually have an email from a democrat who swears that if Gore was elected he would have precented Sept 11. How….President Gore would have read the intelligence report that forecasted Sept 11th and then taken appropiate action.
    Of course when the Republicans repond…it is unfair. How could President Bush bring up national security to a Vietnam vetern…how could they bring up Clinton’s failures to fight terrorism….how could they bring up someone’s vote on the Gulf War.


  7. Paul says:

    A drinking buddy of mine is one of the 65 or so living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor from his service in Vietnam. He also has a few stars on his chest of various metallic colors.

    I guess that makes him more qualified to be the President of the United States than John Kerry or George Bush.

    I can’t wait to tell him.

  8. Doug says:

    I guess if that was true, Bob Dole would have been elected in ’96.

    Funny how things change.

  9. Chris says:

    Ann Coulter very nastily, but alas truthfully took apart Cleland’s obfuscation of the nature of his service two weeks ago.

    Has anyone ever read Cleland’s Silver Star citation? I have. Typical Vietnam awards inflation. He did his job and arguably left his post as a Captain to do the work that some junior enlisted should have done. Today, he would have been lucky to get an Army Commendation with V Device for Valor (FYI, in over two years of war in two separate theaters, there have been ZERO Medals of Honor awarded so far, and only 1 Distinguished Service Cross, 1 Navy Cross and 2 Air Force Crosses, all for Afghanistan). The action happened about 4 days prior to his grenade accident, so it made it look related. And he did not really try hard to clarify that.

  10. Moe Lane says:

    “Are we really going to take the juvenile position that only people who have earned a Silver Star or higher get to talk about national security issues?”

    Why wouldn’t they? It’s the logical conclusion to the chickenhawk argument, after all.

    Well, more accurately, the reductio ad absurdum.

  11. dick says:

    I commented to Josh Marshall about Cleland’s actions getting his medals and his actions resulting in amputation not being for the same thing. I mentioned that his actions getting the medals were good. His actions causing his amputation were for dropping a grenade while on the way to have a few beers. He told me that he knew Cleland well and Cleland was a true war hero. Not argument there. The argument is that people are using Cleland to bolster their own cases by using his amputations as if they happened at the same time as his heroism – and he lets them do it!!

  12. Miguel says:

    Wallace was shot. Dillinger too. So what?