'Phony soldiers' comments continue to roil Iraq war debate
Both sides are cranking up the volume regarding Moveon.org's Petraeus ad and Rush Limbaugh's comments about soldiers who don't support the war.
Comments by conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh that troops who oppose the Iraq war are "phony soldiers" are still stinging more than a week after he made them. The controversy comes only a week after the liberal group Moveon.org ran an ad in The New York Times calling US Army Gen. David H. Petraeus "General Betray Us." That event drew similar criticism, and some observers speculate that liberals are focusing on Mr. Limbaugh now to draw attention away from the ad incident. The continuing fallout has prompted some observers to remark that politicians who have pounced on the comments and the ad are both eager to sound off before the elections and unable to take a firm stance of their own on the war.Skip to next paragraph
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The controversy started on the Sept. 26 edition of Limbaugh's radio program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, when he spoke with a caller about antiwar protesters. The caller lamented that, "what's really funny is they [activists] never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media." At which point, Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller agreed, and after finishing that particular discussion, Rush summarized a news item from one of his earlier shows.
They have their celebrities and one of them was Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth. Now, he was a "corporal." I say in quotes. Twenty-three years old. What made Jesse Macbeth a hero to the anti-war crowd wasn't his Purple Heart; it wasn't his being affiliated with post-traumatic stress disorder from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. No. What made Jesse Macbeth, Army Ranger, a hero to the left was his courage, in their view, off the battlefield, without regard to consequences. He told the world the abuses he had witnessed in Iraq, American soldiers killing unarmed civilians, hundreds of men, women, even children.
Now, recently, Jesse Macbeth, poster boy for the anti-war left, had his day in court. And you know what? He was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim and his Army discharge record. He was in the Army. Jesse Macbeth was in the Army, folks, briefly. Forty-four days before he washed out of boot camp.
In response to Limbaugh's initial exchange about "phony soldiers," an anti-Iraq war veterans' group, VoteVets.org, featured an ad where former Army Staff Sgt. Brian McGough showed scars on his head from a roadside bomb. In the ad, Mr. McGough says, "Rush, the shrapnel I took to my head was real. My traumatic brain injury was real. And my belief we are on the wrong course in Iraq is real." In response, Limbaugh compared him to a metaphorical suicide bomber. The Los Angeles Times reports that exchanges like these represent partisan "taunts" that will be exchanged in the upcoming election season.
With the 2008 presidential primary season at a fevered pitch, both sides of the political noise machine are cranking up the volume, looking for opportunities to slam the other side for bad behavior, bad word choice or bad intentions. Schoolyard-style taunts flung by irrepressible partisans are blown up into national debates.
This week, it was the Democrats' turn to wage all-out noisefare after Limbaugh made his "phony soldiers" remark during an exchange with a caller Sept. 26.
"This is why people hate politics in America and why they are so desperate for a change," said former GOP pollster Frank Luntz, a consultant for Fox News Network. "Everyone is looking for the political advantage. Everyone is looking for a story they can use to beat the other guy over the head."