Apparently every Democrat automatically despises the troops, even when those Democrats once volunteered to serve in the armed forces. It's a trope Republicans have pulled out ever since the Nixon years. The Obama era--replete with drone strikes, Libyan intervention, and the death of Osama bin Laden--has robbed Republicans of a bit of their bluster. But on Saturday Ted Cruz, the newly elected U.S. Senator from Texas, breathed new life into the old smear when he tarred two highly decorated former veterans.
Cruz appeared in Washington, D.C., at a forum hosted by the National Review Institute, the non-profit arm of the conservative magazine. "We've got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. Both of whom are very prominently [pause] less than ardent fans of the U.S. military," Cruz said to chuckles from the crowd.
A quick refresher about the two men he claims somehow oppose the U.S. military. In 1966, secretary of state nominee John Kerry, while studying at Yale University, enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In 1968, at the peak of the conflict, he requested to serve in Vietnam. The U.S. government ultimately awarded Kerry three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star for his service. Contra the despicable Swift Boat ads trotted out in the 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry is indisputably a war hero.
In 1967, Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense nominee, was called before the draft board and volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army. Hagel saw combat in both Vietnam and Cambodia. Along with the shrapnel from a mine explosion still lodged in his chest, Hagel walked away from the war with two Purple Hearts and a host of other commendations.
The two men would later serve together in the U.S. Senate?Kerry as a Democrat, Hagel as a Republican. Neither voted consistently against the use of American forces abroad. Both, in fact, approved the resolution granting George W. Bush approval to pursue the foolish Iraq War.
Yet for Ted Cruz, who never served in the military, both Kerry and Hagel are dangerous peaceniks who cannot be trusted. Cruz, who has quickly earned a reputation in Washington for serving up Michelle Bachmann-style red meat to the right-wing crowd, didn't elaborate on his statement on stage and ducked out of the conference without fielding questions from the media. But it's simple to see where his objection lies: President Obama nominated Kerry and Hagel. If a Democratic president has nominated you, you must loathe the military. And if you're just another chicken-hawk Republican, you must love it more.