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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Bush Legacy: The Debasing of Military Service


With the characteristic keenness of speech insight and bluntness that has earned him nearly unanimous respect in both parties and the press, Virginia Republican congressman Tom Davis assessed President George W. Bush's impact on the GOP: “The Republican brand is in the trash can … if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

We all know that probably sooner rather than later — and thanks, at least in part, to the Democrats' politically screwing up — the Republicans will recover and once again win a national election. But the Bush political legacy — which will almost certainly include his party having lost more than 20 House seats in two consecutive elections (GOP lost 31 in 2006 and is on schedule to lose another 20 or more on Nov. 4) for the first time since 1930 to 1932 — is an insignificant blemish compared to the Bush political machine's vicious and systematic smearing, if not libeling, of oftentimes heroic military service by Bush's political opponents.

Let's look at the record and the evidence of character assassination. In the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had dared to upset the heavily favored George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary, was accused by Bush-backers of being emotionally and mentally unstable because of the 5.5 years of abuse and torture as a prisoner-of-war in North Vietnam. The Bush campaign used discredited veterans to charge that McCain had committed treason by collaborating with the enemy to save himself.

In 1969, Democrat Al Gore had done what no other 21-year-old graduate of St. Albans prep school and Harvard College did that year: He enlisted in the U.S. Army, not as an officer but as a private. In 1971, the Army sent Gore to Vietnam. This was not helpful for Bush and the GOP in the 2000 presidential campaign; Bush had relied upon his father's political clout to jump ahead of many others on the Texas Air National Guard's waiting list and somehow received an officer's commission without ever attending Officer Candidate School.

In Vietnam, the U.S. Marine Corps sustained more casualties than the Corps had in all of World War II; however, Bush forfeited his flight status by failing to show up for his annual physical.

So the Bush campaign accused Al Gore of getting “preferential treatment” in Vietnam in 1971 because his father was a Democratic senator from Tennessee. This conveniently ignored the fact that Gore Sr. had lost his Senate seat in 1970. The Bushies disparaged Gore for serving as an Army journalist in Vietnam (while Bush was not serving as a Texas National Guardsman in the legendary Battle of Amarillo).

In 2002, the Bush organization in the Georgia U.S. Senate race defamed and helped defeat Democrat Max Cleland who had lost both legs and an arm serving in the Army in Vietnam; Cleland opposed the Bush version of the Homeland Security Act. Cleland's opponent Saxby Chambliss claimed “ a bad knee” prevented him from fighting the Commies in ‘Nam, so you had the “bad knee” non-combatant questioning the patriotism of the legless combat veteran.

Again in 2004, Bush faced Democrat John Kerry, another decorated Vietnam combat veteran who had earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals. When anti-Kerry ads appeared accusing the Democrat of lying about his war record and betraying his comrades, Republican John McCain branded the anti-Kerry commercials “dishonest and dishonorable.” McCain added: “It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,” in comparing the attacks to those used against him by the Bush forces in South Carolina. Ignoring McCain's urging, President Bush and his campaign refused to condemn the slurs on Kerry.

The Bush motive is clear: A political adversary's military service, regardless how heroic, must be disparaged, denigrated and demeaned at all costs. That shameful pattern constitutes and reveals ultimate disdain for all those who serve our country in uniform.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




5 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... If I might offer you a bit of Oriental History.... In Turkey, the matter of succession to the Sultinate was settled when the stronger brother in line for the job killed the weaker, and though the practice might seem barbaric, the people rejoiced knowing their leader was strong, unchallenged, and that their lives would not be torn apart by civil war... In time this practice became degraded, and after Suliman, The Grand Turk, the Harem got a hold of the processs, and made a virtual prisoner of their respective candidates, not even troubling to educate them; and this playing of factional politics was the destruction of the Ottomans, causing much pain and suffering as they spireled lower and lower until having lost all, Gammel Attaturk wiped them away, for ever... ... Now, I love democracy, and we do not have democracy here... What we have is the old dry bone of democracy which is the choice of leaders... Thrown into this mix is the harem of the liberal media, which, if you are liberal, seems anything but liberal... And they are like the harems, presenting their candidates, and never bothering to make certain those candidates are prepared or educated. The press, together with the parties think that no matter how bad their candidate is, that they can rule by default... They do not recognize the great power of the office, which no one seeking power will ever tear down... It does not matter if a president is terrible, a laughing stock, or an imbicile; He will not be removed because those in power want the power.. intact... You can see the harem's power in ads...Advertizing as a campaign expense that puts no money in any poor person's pocket does not judge merit... Judged on the advertizing; neither side should be elected... Who cares if a man is qualified??? If he can be painted as pink or black hearted, left or right, too much, or not enough, he is done... The freedom of the press is one thing; but the power of the media is a different thing entirely from that of the press... And is it worth it??? I mean, if there were such a thing as heaven, would the power of the presidency be worth your soul??? There is a reason the presidency is so powerful, but it is not a good reason... There is a reason the government is so powerful, and it is relative to the power of the people... As truth has become less powerful, the government has become more powerful....As the house, which should be as large as a small army was kept small, its power was kept small... The President could be little more than a figurehead... The Senate could be a retirment home for governors... The people could run their affairs in almost every respect through the House, IF.. the House could bring itself to represent the people... If they deny the power of the people, they strengthen themselves, but weaken the office. In weakening the office the make the presidency strong... And to make this modern day Sultan; the media will peddle any lie and support any faction that will advance their position... For that reason; I think the power of the press, which is a small part of the media, is misplaced... It has never served this country well... But ultimately, to have the media of this country in private hands, where it can make fortunes, and also make or break candidates, is too much power without government, -outside of the peoples control-... Think of it, just the cost alone is extreme; but what is done with it, perverting the free choice of candidates is destructive of the democracy we have left... Thanks...And, good job as usual...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:16 AM
Thanks for this little dose of anti-Alzheimer's medication for voters. What a nice thing to think that the putrid Republican Brand will finally be tossed into the garbage. It is astounding how much that patented technique of looking in the mirror and accusing your enemy of what you see has worked for them and to the detriment of the country over the years. Besides the obvious cause and effect relationship, there is quite a bit of symbolism in the fact that such a historic the economic meltdown has come along to escort this decrepit administration out the door along with the majority status of its party. ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
One can only hope that this will be looked at in history as a turning point where newer and younger voters arrived to save this country from its failed older leaders and bring sharper vision, clearer thinking, and more open-mindedness into the decision making on which our future depended.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sat Oct 25, 2008 11:25 AM
Shields states that the Marines suffered more casualties in Vietnam than in all of WWII. Where does he get that?
I would like to see some numbers on that. With a quick search, I don't get anything close.
Comment: #3
Posted by: mike
Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:05 PM
Re: mike;... Sir; .. be sure to count them all, and don't forget the mentals... Where I grew up they are still coming out of the woods... And then they wander back in again.. What is it about stress and violence that drives the socialism out of people. I wouldn't mind serving my country like that, but I would take offense at having to pay myself for the privilage....And you know, if the rich don't pay for their own wars they take absolutely no lesson from it... It is so strange to ask one man to pay for his place in society with his life, and not ask another to pay for his place with a dollar... This is where I want to say life is so unfair... So, Life is unfair.... Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:52 PM
As the son of a 2-war veteran who was the winner of the Silver Star, 3 Bronze Stars, and 2 Purple Hearts, I was appalled at John Kerry's willingness to accept awards for bravery when he had not earned them. In other words, I was pursuaded by the Bushies that Kerry was a fraud and a coward. I was also pursuaded that Iraq had weapons of mass distruction and that global warming was a myth perpetrated on our society in order for the liberals to tear down our businesses. Okay, I was obviously misled and voted against my country's best interests. Now the question: why don't our laws prevent people from telling such lies? Isn't that voter fraud, or something?
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:05 PM
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