Jim Boyd at the Minneapolis Star Tribune doesn't like the Republicans accusing his party of "gutter politics" and is eager to let us know it. There's only one problem: he has misrepresented what was said in one of the pieces that he's bashing. But, let us start at the beginning.
Readers can decide for themselves whether the Democrats are engaging in "gutter politics" by pushing hard on President Bush's Vietnam-era service, or lack thereof, in the National Guard. The story about Bush peeves me a little; I enlisted in the Army and did my time in Vietnam, not carrying an M-16 but not safely in Saigon either. Almost four years of my life were devoted to service, and Bush apparently couldn't be bothered to show up for some of the weekends he promised to serve.
But what really gets my goat is political operatives in Bush's White House making the "gutter" charge. Whether or not you think the accusation is true, it takes a lot of gall for this group to make it.
First, he gets in a gratuitous shot at President Bush by implicitly endorsing the 'AWOL from the National Guard' story. Hey Jim, just thought you should know that all the evidence available says that Bush completed his service in the Guard honorably and his service was acceptable to the United States military. Since you care enough to bring it up, I should let you know that I don't care if you're offended or not. Just wanted to remind you that the mud-slinging in this year's campaign has been done so far by your side. By the way, just because you don't like the accuser doesn't automatically disallow their complaints except, apparently, for the editorial staff at the Star Tribune.
He goes on:
Take what they did to Max Cleland, for example. Cleland is a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran, former head of the Department of Veterans Affairs and for one term a U.S. senator from Georgia. Then the Republicans decided to do a number on him. In a hard-fought campaign for re-election, Cleland got everything the Republicans could throw at him, including the kitchen sink. His challenger was Saxby Chambliss, picked and managed by the White House's Karl Rove and Georgia GOP Chairman Ralph Reed. The absolute low point was a television ad which showed Cleland's photo together with those of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, equating the three. Cleland, the ad said, had shown his true colors by voting against homeland security. He was, the ad implied, unpatriotic.
Of course he wasn't. Through the long process of creating the Department of Homeland Security, Cleland had supported an alternative plan pushed by Democrats. It differed with the Republican version chiefly in the way it treated federal employees who are members of unions. The new department, after all, was a Democratic initiative, for months strongly opposed by Bush. But the false claim that the moderate Cleland had been soft on terrorism was enough to get him removed by Georgia voters -- in an election animated by the issue of whether the Confederate flag should have been removed from the Georgia statehouse.
Now fast forward to 2004. Cleland has been hitting the campaign trail hard for Sen. John Kerry. Whereas Kerry has been circumspect about Bush's military service, Cleland hasn't. He has repeatedly challenged Bush to prove he met his Guard obligations.
Yep, them Republicans played hardball during the Cleland campaign and won. Not that Democrats ever would do anything like that. We'll just ignore that the Dems were the fine folks who dug up Willie Horton in 1988 (thanks to Al Gore), ran ads accusing Bush and the Republicans of supporting the burning of African-American churches, and whose supporters at the NAACP ran an ad practically accusing Bush of racism and murder because he doesn't believe in hate crime laws (a defensible position, I might add). He also doesn't seem to mind Cleland making accusations about the President's National Guard service that are not supported by fact.
Boyd then complains about Ann Coulter's treatment of how Sen. Cleland lost his limbs in Vietnam:
Whereupon the Republicans unleashed their blond guided missile, Ann Coulter. Here's what she had to say this week: "Cleland lost three limbs in an accident during a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix." Coulter's version is akin to saying that John F. Kennedy was injured in World War II while taking a boat ride.
First I just thought I should mention that Ms. Coulter is not controlled by the Bush administration nor do they do control what she writes about or how she treats it. Although I am not a regular reader of her work, since I consider her to be a right wing equivalent of people like Paul Krugman and Eric Alterman (a pair whose writings are at least as strident and biased as Coulter's if less factual, except Boyd and the Star Tribune never disagree or complain about them) but I read the piece in question and came to a slightly different conclusion. Her description and Boyd's actually were pretty similar(hers was a bit snarkier), and her complaint was that the Democrats misrepresented how his injuries were acquired in order to enhance his image.
Mr. Boyd then goes on to complain about John Kerry's military service has been belittled by some GOPers and what what happend to John McCain in South Carolina during the 2000 campaign. He fails to complain, however, about the accusations of desertion and being AWOL voiced by Democratic party chairman Terry McAuliffe and some of the candidates in debates. Or for that matter the disgusting "Bush = Hitler" stuff on the web, or the ads on the Democratic party website depicting Bush rolling the elderly off a cliff, etc. .
Mr. Boyd thinks that it "takes a lot of gall" for the Bush campaign to complain about Democrat political tactics. I suggest he should learn not to throw stones in glass houses, but that's one miracle I don't ever expect to see any time soon. In the meantime Mr. Boyd, meet Mr. Kettle.