Foxhole Politics

Jake Tapper, an ABC correspondent, has an intriguing little piece on today’s New York Times Op-Ed page that’s a lot more interesting than anything we’ve seen on ABC itself lately. His thesis: Voters don’t care whether Sen. John Kerry has a chest full of medals from Vietnam, or how President George W. Bush was spending his weekends in Alabama 31 years ago.

Tapper notes that “in 1993, George H.W. Bush, a Navy pilot in World War II, packed up his Flying Cross medals to make room for Bill Clinton, who famously avoided service in Vietnam.” (In the Democratic primary campaign a year earlier, Clinton had handily defeated Bob Kerrey, who won the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam, and in 1996, he would go on to beat Bob Dole, who took home two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star from World War II.)

Other decorated veterans who have met their Waterloo at the hands of the voters: Gray Davis (Bronze Star in Vietnam) and Max Cleland, the former Democratic senator from Georgia, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, and whose reward for that last year was to go down in defeat to Saxby Chambliss, a Republican who never served a day in the military.

Tapper ends with this quote: “We do not need now to divide America over who served and how. [No group] has cornered the market on virtue or rectitude or love of country.” That was in 1992, and the speaker was John Kerry.


Correction: The above post has been corrected to reflect the correct date of the final quote from Sen. John Kerry.

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Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.