Debra J. Saunders

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., has become the Democrats' Ann Coulter -- he keeps saying things that aggrandize him, while discrediting his political persuasion.

Last week, after President Bush vetoed a bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover not only poor but also middle-class children, Stark accused Republicans of wanting "to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send them to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement." Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked Stark for his "inappropriate" comments.

Stark then issued a new statement: "I have nothing but respect for our brave men and women in uniform and wish them the very best. But I respect neither the commander in chief who keeps them in harm's way nor the chicken hawks in Congress who vote to deny children health care."

Careful, congressman, you might want to think twice about calling folks chicken hawks. It's not in your party's interest.

Sure, in 2004 Democrats hurled the "chicken hawk" epithet at George W. Bush, who took America to war in Iraq even though he only served as a pilot in the Air National Guard. Then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who had no apparent qualms about President Bill Clinton's evasion of the draft, charged that Bush was "AWOL" during Vietnam.

You see, Democrats had nominated John F. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, who had voted for the Iraq war resolution. So, just years after President Clinton put U.S. forces into the former Yugoslavia and sent bombers over Iraq, Democrats argued that only a combat vet was suited to serve in the White House and put U.S. troops in harm's way. In that mindset, Kerry addressed the Democratic National Convention in martial terms: "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."

In 2008, Democratic hopefuls are twice as likely to have been in law school than in boot camp. Among eight Democrats, Mike Gravel served in the Army from 1951-1954, while Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who voted for the Iraq war resolution, served in the Army Reserves. By McAuliffe's lights, Dodd was AWOL.

Be it noted, both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards voted for the Iraq war resolution but did not serve. Barack Obama did not serve in the military, but says he would not have voted for the war.

Among the eight GOP hopefuls, John McCain was a career Naval officer who spent five years in a Vietnam POW camp, Rep. Duncan Hunter is a decorated Vietnam combat vet, and Ron Paul was a flight surgeon in the Air Force. McCain and Hunter voted for the Iraq war; Paul did not.

Some Bush-haters also trashed the president's daughters because they have not enlisted, even if few held the Kerry daughters to the same standard. I don't ascribe to the notion that candidates' children are chattel, who have to enlist because of their parents' views. But if you think otherwise, you should know that Chelsea Clinton is a hedge fund analyst, Edwards' elder daughter is in law school, and Obama's daughters are children.

McCain has a son in the Marines and a son at the U.S. Naval Academy. The Giuliani kids are in college. As for Mitt Romney, who was a Mormon missionary during Vietnam, in August he exhibited appalling judgment when a peace activist asked him why his five grown sons had not served in the military. Romney answered, "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." Parents with children serving in Iraq must shudder.

According to the Gallup poll, 18 percent of American voters served in the military. I never served myself, so I am in no position to attack others for not having served. Still, all things being equal, I'd rather vote for a candidate who has served in the military and knows the horrors of war. I would imagine other non-veterans would agree, because we appreciate the sacrifices made by those who stepped up when others did not.

Yet even veterans don't insist that candidates be vets. In August, Gallup found that GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani had the highest favorability rating (64 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable) among military veteran voters. McCain garnered a 52 percent favorable rating; Obama, 44 percent.

Back to the chicken hawk label. Three years ago, Democrats shamelessly donned a military mantle. In a display of craven opportunism, they embraced an argument that seemed phony then, and now has vanished. They argued their candidate was better because he was a combat vet. Today, none of the Dems' top three candidates has a military record.

Here are three words you won't hear from the nominee at the 2008 Democratic National Convention: Reporting for duty.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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