Too Much of Nothing - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Too Much of Nothing

After a generation of glorifying war resisters and deserters and spurning or ignoring those who served, the Democrats now claim to be the last word on patriotism and national service. Being Democrats, they couldn’t gravitate to a regular war hero: they had to find one who sold his soul and betrayed the United States military after returning home. But since more Americans are impressed by War Hero Kerry than John Lennon Kerry, the Democrats are emphasizing what their likely nominee did in Vietnam, not on the Capital Mall. Hence the attacks on President Bush’s National Guard service by the same party that defended Bill Clinton for evading the draft entirely and participating in overseas demonstrations against the United States.

The new rules of the game have already been absorbed at the New York Times. Look no further than Sunday’s op-ed by Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Under the guise of defending President Bush, David mocks his own service during Vietnam in the Army Reserves, along with those who served with him. The piece is unrelentingly sarcastic, steeped in the winking cynicism of the cultural Left for American history and all things military. To paraphrase Hamlet: It out-Dowds Dowd.

David warms up with a familiar smirk at the rationale for the Vietnam War: “I wanted to do my part in saving that tiny country from the scourge of Communism. We had to draw the line somewhere, and if not me, who?” But he thought better of it when he considered the danger “the homeland” (nice touch) was in against domestic disturbances. The U.S. needed David at home to protect it from itself! Like the justification for the war, this notion is laughable to David, the editors of the Times, and Senator Winter Soldier. What they know, and have always known, is that the only trouble America was in during the 1960s came from its guardians — the military, racist police, “spiritually dead” parents, corporate profiteers, cultural censors, and those trained killers who mowed down the kids at Kent State. Come to think of it, weren’t those National Guardsmen?

In ridiculing the notion of domestic violence against the United States, David is being too clever by half, as is usually the case in Times Op-Eds where the writer’s sole purpose is to sneer. When he asks, “Or what if some national emergency should arise?” a reader might respond, “Well, what if?” and dwell on how the homeland became the Homeland. Or they might recall how in every famous video clip of David’s Golden Age — America in the 1960s — there seems to be a great need for crowd control from domestic troops. Skyrocketing violent crime in the cities, radical terrorist groups like the Weathermen and the Black Panthers, antiwar organizations supported by international communists, an epidemic of drug use by the young: they’re easy to shrug off now, no thanks to liberals.

David’s satire, heavy handed as it is, aims squarely at what he portrays as soft training in the Army Reserves: “It rankles me that people assume it was some kind of waltz in the park back then. If only. Once a month, for an entire weekend — I’m talking eight hours Saturday and Sunday — we would meet in a cold, dank airplane hangar. The temperature in that hangar would sometimes get down to 40 degrees, and very often I had to put on long underwear…” Though David was pledged to a six-year commitment to the Reserves, the Army was willing to waive his final year so he could attend acting school. That generosity earns a smug kiss-off line: “I’ll always be eternally grateful to the Pentagon for allowing me to pursue my dreams.”

Thirty years ago, David might have written the same essay with the same snide tone, but instead assailed the rigidity of military rules and the regimentation of day-to-day living. His release after five years would have been portrayed as drawing water from a stone, a rare concession from a tyrannical institution. Instead of expressing contempt with words like “eternally,” he would find a way to work “Strangelovian” into the mix. Imagine what tantrums he’d be throwing if the Army had been tougher on him.

The Democrats should have thought of this approach a long time ago. When you have no principles — and liberals on Vietnam have worse than none — you can pay any price, bear any burden, to further your vision of undermining the military and weakening national loyalty. If you’re skillful enough, you can even play at honoring the military while dishonoring those who serve in it, as the Kerry campaign is doing. It’s a subtle trick well suited to the strengths of writers like Larry David, who have made careers out of turning nothing into something.

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