The Return of Bush's Brownshirts

We've become so used to it that many Americans can no longer tell the difference between legitimate investigative reporting and a staged smear. It began with the Clintons, but it did not end there. In fact "they" saw how well it worked, and it has become Tool No. 1 in their box of tricks.

"They," of course, are the new breed of Republicans that arrived with Newt and Tom back in the 1990s. Lazy, complacent and corrupt Democrats provided a rich medium in which Republican smears could grow and thrive. From Congress to the Clinton White House, Republicans had a target-rich environment in which they could nurture mole hills into Mt. Everests. It was the most fun sleaze balls could have with their clothes on.

They nearly crippled the Clinton presidency by magnifying Bill Clinton's flaws, which today seem downright quaint by comparison with George W. Bush's behavior. (What sane citizen wouldn't happily trade a president geting hummers in the Oval Office for the one we have now, who's getting our kids killed in Hummers in Iraq?)

These are not your father's Republicans. These Republicans take no prisoners. Cross them and, even if you are a fellow traveler, they will have you rubbed out. They tasted first blood during the Clinton years, and like chicken-killing dogs, liked it. So when they picked Texan George W. Bush as their candidate, they decided it was time to see just how far they could take the smear, how far they could push it.

But pushing it -- bending the truth, even breaking it -- was politically dangerous. They needed deniability and distance. So they outsourced their smear work. That's when the Brownshirts arrived. It was one thing to accuse a sitting president of lying about sex, and quite another to accuse war heroes of being lying cowards.

The first victims of GOP Brownshirts were Vietnam War heros -- triple amputee Max Cleland, a Democrat, and prisoner of war John McCain, a Republican. (Nothing personal, John, just business.)

Again it worked. Oh how it worked! All they had to do was say something over, over and over again, and voters internalized it and voted against the target. How easy. Why the hell hadn't they thought of this before?

Then the big show began the Bush vs. Kerry campaign. Bush, who avoided going to Vietnam by hiding out at a Texas National Guard armory -- when he even bothered to show up -- and Kerry, who had fought in Vietnam winning medals and getting wounded. This smear had to be extra sleazy. And so it was.

The Brownshirts took the guise of "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth." The genius of the idea was right there in the name. They had been, like Kerry, "Swiftboaters," they were "veterans," and they were going to tell us the "truth." And what a production it was! They launched an expensive media blitz shamelessly contradicting nearly every eyewitness to Kerry's service during the war, contradicted nearly every official account, challenged every written record. Kerry, they claimed, was really a yellow-belly and a liar.

And it worked again! George W. won a second term, despite the fact he never served in combat and instead actively avoided doing so. And, despite the fact his first four years as president had been an unmitigated disaster. He had started a war on false pretenses. He had gutted the national treasury by giving billions in tax breaks to the already wealthy.

But the GOP Brownshirts had done their magic once again. Fiction truimphed over fact. Liars trumped truth. All that was missing was the beer hall.

I only mention all this because they're back. The GOP has called in the Brownshirts. A new contract has been put out by the commission. The target this time: Vietnam War hero Rep. John Murtha.

Murtha's denunciation of the administration's mishandling of the war in Iraq and his proposal for immediate withdrawal, posed the first, and so far sole, threat to the administration's wet dream policies in that part of the world. So, war hero or no war hero, Murtha has to go.

Here we go again. Buckle up, the bad boys are back in town.

Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question

( -- Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam.
(CNSNews bills itself as "The Right News, Right Now," and you can find it quoted and pointers to it on Christian-right sites like Pat Robertson's 700 Club and the Gospel News Network.)

How many more times do we have to bear witness to such drive-by muggings of political candidates before someone puts a stop to it? I don't care if it's Republicans or Democrats behind it, a lie is lie, and there should be consequences -- legal consequences as well as political.

And to those voters out there -- on the right and left -- so anxious to believe the worst about someone they don't want to win. Do you really prefer thugs and liars? In the Murtha case, for example, who would you rather have making decisions on war -- John Murtha, who has been there and done that, or George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two men who assiduously avoided going to war and yet have and will stand by and allow the Brownshirts of their own party to smear men who did serve?

I hope the media wises up this time and, rather than parroting smears, investigates the "investigators."

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