Since November, the media have carried around Rep. John Murtha around on their shoulders like a conquering hero for his opposition to the war in Iraq. They've thrown around the words "war hero" like clowns throwing candy at a parade. Murtha was broadcast far and wide attacking Vice President Cheney for his five deferments from Vietnam, suggesting these chicken hawks don't like any suggestions about how to fight a war.
If Murtha were a Republican accusing a Democrat like this, we know what would happen. The so-called nonpartisan, objective, "mainstream" media would either (a) totally ignore him as an irrelevant, obscure House wacko, or (b) investigate his own military record to see if he earned all the "war hero" talk. And if discrepancies were found, all hell would break loose. And if you don't believe me, just ask John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, who (a) underwent first, and then (b) when they challenged John Kerry.
But Murtha is a Democrat accusing a Republican. So it fell to the Cybercast News Service (CNSNews.com, which I founded), and reporters Marc Morano and Randy Hall to look into the Murtha military record. What they found were a lot of similarities to the military record of John Kerry.
Like Kerry, Murtha's medals came for surface wounds that never caused his evacuation from the battlefield, and like Kerry, he attempted to get his medals by political manipulation, in Murtha's case, through then-Rep. John Saylor. But Saylor's office felt it was odd for Murtha to seek medals for "superficial lacerations."
Murtha also told differing stories about when and where he was wounded in action. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story reported in 2002 that Murtha had facial lacerations. In 1994, the Uniontown (Pa.) Herald-Standard quoted Murtha saying he was "wounded in the arm" for one medal and "my knee was banged up and my arm was banged up when a helicopter was shot down" for the other. Then, Morano and Hall uncovered a June 1, 1967 report in the Johnstown (Pa.) Tribune-Democrat quoting from a letter from Murtha to his wife describing his injuries as being "struck in the ankle" by a "shot that ricocheted off the helicopter."
Since there were so many similarities to Kerry -- including the fact that author Morano was also one of the first reporters on the Swift Boat Veterans story -- the left predictably threw an ugly fit. It was not long, then, for Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne to load his air rifle for rhetorical battle. "I underestimated the viciousness of the right wing," he began.
Even before he gets started, we know where he's going, don't we? Liberals want to insist when they tout a "war hero" making their anti-liberation of Iraq talking points, it's 100 percent beyond the pale of decency to investigate him. They want the world to know that when a "war hero" acceptable to them disagrees with President Bush, everyone must stop, shut up and listen like an old E.F. Hutton commercial.
Dionne sounds just like his hero Bill Clinton as he proclaims to be maddened by "the unblushing hypocrisy of the right wing and the way it circulates ... personal vilification to abort honest political debate." As if that weren't enough, there's also this: "Moreover, the right has demonstrated that its attitude toward military service is entirely opportunistic."
Now here is where we should all acknowledge our partisanship -- I oppose the Clintons and the Kerrys, and Dionne favors them. But can Dionne honestly state that the left wing (and "objective" smearers like CBS) have not resorted to "personal vilification" on the military record of George W. Bush? Can he honestly ignore that the left has vilified the World War II military service of Bob Dole in 1996 (Robert Ellis in The Nation) and George H. W. Bush in 1992 (Sidney Blumenthal in the New Republic)?
More importantly, how dare anyone on the left accuse any conservative of attitudinal opportunism where military service is involved? Military service didn't matter a bit to them when Bill Clinton was running, but it was vitally important when Kerry was their man in 2004. They felt George W. Bush's National Guard record was a scandal in 2000, but also didn't want the media poring over Al Gore's Vietnam service as a journalist. Four years later, there they were again, poring over Bush's Vietnam-era service record.
It's fair to state that on some investigative stories, only conservatives want the tough, thorough report, and on others, only liberals are really jazzed about it. But what about the public interest? A media revering the words "objective," "nonpartisan," and "mainstream" would investigate both Republicans and Democrats when politicians start dragging out their war records.