There's a list making its way 'round the Internet these days. Cyberspace is littered with lists of all kinds, but this one is more interesting than most others. It makes a comparison between politicians who served their country in the armed forces and politicians who, for whatever reason, did not.
It's an amazing list, really, practically a little black book of cowards and heroes, if that's the way you want to look at everything. Somehow, a good many Democrats (of all eras) managed to muster up enough courage to wear this country's uniform.
There are the rich kids, like Ted Kennedy, who was in the Army from 1951 to 1953, which is to say during the Korean War. Sure, he was probably kept a safe distance from the front lines, but he still made the time. He wasn't legendary, like his brothers John and Joe, but at least he's on the rolls, the way conservatives think Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard.
Then there are the super-liberals, ultimate leftists who are seen by many as the bane of the United States. That would absolutely include David Bonior, who was a staff sergeant in the Army from 1968 until 1972. This differs greatly from a person like Rick Santorum, who never laced up a combat boot in his life, unless he once got crazy at a contributor's paintball ranch (anything is possible with him).
We all know about John Kerry and Max Cleland, and how their service was trashed, and we all know that Dick Cheney had "other priorities" in his day. But who knew that George McGovern was awarded the Silver Star in World War II? Not quite like Rush Limbaugh, who got a deferment for something called a "pilonidal cyst" (a condition which, by the way, did not keep his dad from fighting in the same war as McGovern).
Down the list we go of conservative war-makers who could not stoop so low as to wear the same uniform as the men and women they send into harm's way: Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, John Ashcroft, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, John Kyl, Trent Lott, Spencer Abraham, Saxby Chambliss (the smearer of Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam). None of them served so much as a day.
As much flak as Bill Clinton took for having "loathed" the military, Bill O'Reilly considered himself too good to defend freedom. So did Chris Matthews, Bill Bennett, Michael Savage, Pat Buchanan, William Kristol, Michael Medved, George Will and Kenneth Starr, among others who have hounded the former president for a living, even as their own figurehead steers America off the edge of a cliff.
Even so, the rank and file conservatives continue to harp on "the liberals", good stewards who have as much love for their country today as they did when they swore to protect it with their lives. Tom Daschle, Walter Mondale, Dick Gephardt - all were rejected by voters who favored conservativism over liberalism, based on something heard on the radio while waiting for Triple-A to come out and spare their pink hands from having to change a tire.
So we have chicken-hawk spokespersons advocating for chicken-hawks in power who want to run wars from behind big desks because they harbor some inner guilt about not having had the balls to fight when they were young. The fact that these people are in power at all is a testament to the collective stupidity present in our politics, a wicked ideological brew that the right wing stirs endlessly.
I bet we all come around pretty soon, though. One thing we can say for sure, Americans are smarting these days. Smarts is exactly what we need.