- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Patriotism and pride in military service has been bustin’ out all over since John Kerry, remembered for his slander of American soldiers after he returned from his abbreviated tour of duty in Vietnam, discovered that the medals he won on the Mekong are useful, after all.

This new patriotism on the left is usually based on synthetic pride in someone else’s sacrifice, since almost none of the media patriots offended that George W. missed one or two Air National Guard drills has ever put on a uniform.

The Democratic mouthpieces and the computer commandos in the newspapers have worked all week to breathe a little life into this 4-year-old Bush “scandal.” John Kerry started it anew, trying to divert attention from his dismal record on national security (i.e., he’s against it). He voted to go to war in Iraq and then voted against appropriating the money to support the troops in the field. With friends like that, veterans need no enemies.

In his haste to paint George W. as having gone AWOL, Mr. Kerry slandered everyone who has ever worn the Guard uniform, equating National Guard service with going over the hill to Canada and Sweden. Not very nice. Guardsmen from the nation’s wars have won bigger medals than Mr. Kerry did in Vietnam, and no Guardsman has ever thrown medals away.

Pride in military service does not come naturally to most modern Democrats, whose hearts are still in the ‘60s, when God and country were subjects only for derision, scorn and contempt. Richard Cohen, a columnist for The Washington Post who writes frequently of his disappointment in the birth that made him heir to expectations of manly virtue, takes pride in shame. Richard says he, like George W., was a National Guardsman once, and recalls with obvious delight how he cheated on his country: “I was … lucky enough to get into a National Guard unit in the nick of time … . I was supposed to attend weekly drills and summer camp, but I found them inconvenient. I ‘moved’ to California and then ‘moved’ back to New York, establishing a confusing paper trail that led, really, to nowhere. For two years or so, I played a perfectly legal form of hooky …. I even got paid for all the meetings I missed.”

The president’s military service is so far the juiciest October surprise the Democrats and the left have manufactured, and it’s pretty thin soup. The Boston Globe is trying to find a general, or at least a second lieutenant, to say that somebody ought to investigate why young Lt. Bush was suspended from his flying duties, and USA Today and the New York Times found a supply clerk, or maybe it was a state senator, to say that Mr. Bush’s advisers were talking as early as the 1990s about how to deal with “potentially embarrassing details” in his military records. But it’s only February and we can look forward to bigger and better October surprises before Nov. 2.

These Democratic mockers of all things military can’t believe their good fortune in having found a candidate with an honorable military record, even if his record after he left military service is something less than uniformly decent. Most of the mockers don’t know the difference between a Silver Star and a permanent latrine orderly, but they’re confident that John Kerry is the most heroic American fighting man since Alvin York, or at least Audie Murphy.

Chickenhawks abound in both parties. But it’s the Democrats who loathe the military who have made a campaign science of denigrating the honorable military service of presidents. George H.W. Bush, a torpedo bomber pilot who was shot down over the South Pacific in World War II but who never flaunted it, was the target of smarmy innuendo in 1992 because his crewman did not survive. Sunshine patriots can be severe judges of combat heroics.

Mr. Kerry has been rightly praised for his war service. Nevertheless, several of his congressional colleagues, veterans of Vietnam, have applauded with only one hand. They cannot forget that while American pilots (like, for example, their colleague John McCain) were hanging by their thumbs in a squalid North Vietnamese prison cell, John Kerry was disporting about the country with Jane Fonda, smoking pot, chasing broads and inventing atrocity stories. Some war hero.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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