Liberals are hopping mad about last week's column. Amid angry insinuations that I "lied" about Sen. Max Cleland, I was attacked on the Senate floor by Sen. Jack Reed, Molly Ivins called my column "error-ridden," and Al Hunt called it a "lie." Joe Klein said I was the reason liberals were being hysterical about George Bush's National Guard service.
I would have left it at one column, but apparently Democrats want to go another round. With their Clintonesque formulations, my detractors make it a little difficult to know what "lie" I'm supposed to be contesting, but they are clearly implying ? without stating ? that Cleland lost his limbs in combat.
It is simply a fact that Max Cleland was not injured by enemy fire in Vietnam. He was not in combat, he was not ? as Al Hunt claimed ? on a reconnaissance mission, and he was not in the battle of Khe Sanh, as many others have implied. He picked up an American grenade on a routine noncombat mission and the grenade exploded.
In Cleland's own words: "I didn't see any heroism in all that. It wasn't an act of heroism. I didn't know the grenade was live. It was an act of fate." That is why Cleland didn't win a Purple Heart, which is given to those wounded in combat. Liberals are not angry because I "lied"; they're angry because I told the truth.
I wouldn't press the point except that Democrats have deliberately "sexed up" the circumstances of Cleland's accident in the service of slandering the people of Georgia, the National Guard and George Bush. Cleland has questioned Bush's fitness for office because he served in the National Guard but did not go to Vietnam.
And yet the poignant truth of Cleland's own accident demonstrates the commitment and bravery of all members of the military who come into contact with ordnance. Cleland's injury was of the routine variety that occurs whenever young men and weapons are put in close proximity ? including in the National Guard.
But it is a vastly more glorious story to claim that Cleland was injured by enemy fire rather than in a freak accident. So after Saxby Chambliss beat Cleland in the 2002 Georgia Senate race, liberals set to work developing a carefully crafted myth about Cleland's accident. Among many other examples, last November, Eric Boehlert wrote in Salon: "[D]uring the siege of Khe Sanh, Cleland lost both his legs and his right hand to a Viet Cong grenade."
Sadly for them, dozens and dozens of newspapers have already printed the truth. Liberals simply can't grasp the problem Lexis-Nexis poses to their incessant lying. They ought to stick to their specialty ? hysterical overreaction. The truth is not their forte.