You hear alot of gaudy praise for all things military the further you go toward the rightward end of the political spectrum. Which is liable to confuse any observer with good faith whenever individual military personnel are passionately flamed by these self-renowned mega-patriots. Most recently we find Fox News celebrity pundit Tucker Carlson railing at Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth as a “coward,” “fraud,” “moron” and “callous hack” who “hates the country.”
What did this Purple Heart combat veteran who had her legs shot out from under her helicopter by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq do to deserve such a scolding by the Swanson Frozen Dinner heir from his lofty primetime perch at Fox News? Duckworth drew Tucker’s outrage by stating her opinion that a national debate on the removal of statues of historical figures was a reasonable approach to our current landscape of social unrest. “I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there,” Duckworth said, right out loud, on CNN, for all the world to hear.
We may gather something from coincidence here by noting that Sen. Duckworth left her legs in Iraq in 2004, the same year that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was on the receiving end of what would enter our political vocabulary as a “Swift Boating.” As Kerry challenged the reelection of President George W. Bush, a group of veterans organized under the name Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spent millions of Texas billionaire money saturating cable and broadcast networks with ads smearing Kerry’s decorated combat service in Vietnam. The ad campaign went on to inspire a high-profile stunt during the 2004 Republican National Convention during which delegates paraded for the cameras with Purple Heart adorned Band-Aids stuck to their faces in flagrant mockery of the former leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
What did Kerry do to earn the mockery of these most patriotic GOP delegates ridiculing his three Purple Hearts and Silver Star? “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Kerry rhetorically asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back on April 23, 1971.
Before he resigned altogether, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was removed from his position with the National Security Council by the White House following his witness testimony in the Trump impeachment hearings. As a national security advisor, Vindman was on the line for Trump’s “perfect phone call” in which he had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the favor of investigating the relationship between Joe Biden’s son Hunter with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in return for Congressionally approved military aid in that country’s war with Russia. Following reports of Vindman’s promotion being held up by the Pentagon for no other apparent reason than his witness testimony, Senator Duckworth, whose profile has risen as her platform expands due to her consideration for Joe Biden’s running mate, had put a hold on all Pentagon promotions until Vindman’s promotion was ensured.
Vindman had been accused with no real evidence by Republicans and right wing pundits of having dual loyalties because he had emigrated as a child with his family from Ukraine when it was a Soviet Republic. During the House impeachment hearings, New York Democratic Representative Sean Patrick Maloney asked Vindman to explain his confidence in assuring his father of the security of his position in a letter he had read in his opening statement. What had Lt. Col. Vindman done to have his promotion to full bird colonel threatened by his Commander in Chief? “Congressman,” Vindman answered Maloney, “because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.”
It is an enduring mystery how Republicans have grown so used to getting political mileage at the expense of Democrats and other liberals by exploiting the most superficial of patriotic expressions of military sycophancy; especially when their patriotic puffery is as phony as the Commander in Chief’s own Vietnam era experience, getting a podiatrist with an office in a building owned by his father to sign off on a draft dodging disability. So, it is worth remembering when Senator Duckworth first got under Donald Trump’s skin. When Democratic lawmakers failed to stand and cheer during his 2018 State of the Union Address to the president’s satisfaction, Trump remarked “They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”
“I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap,” Duckworth tweeted back on February 5, 2018.
It is also worth noting, finally, that Lt. Col. Vindman was bullied out of the service for honoring his oath of service while the president fights for Confederate naming rights on US military installations and the lines between liberty and inequality, between honor and opportunism, and between loyalty and treason fade away.