Plucked Chickenhawk Still Squawking

Tom Tancredo (top), Saxby Chambliss (bottom)

Tom Tancredo was at it again at the National Tea Party convention in Nashville.

The saber-rattling, far-right-wing Republican ex-congressman from Colorado claimed Barack Obama is president because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

Literacy tests were common in the ex-Confederate States. They were used to deny the ballot to people whose skin color happened to be the same as the president’s.

Of course, Tancredo knew he was among kindred spirits. Not coincidentally, almost all Tea Baggers are white folks.

The Tea Baggers who heard Tancredo’s speech applauded enthusiastically, according to media reports. Maybe the love Tancredo felt eased any post traumatic stress disorder he might have suffered from verbal combat on “The Ed Show” a while back.

Tancredo never knew what hit him. It must have felt like a tank, but it was a skinny liberal blogger.

Tancredo was debating health care reform with Marcos Moulitsas, the guy who started the Daily Kos Internet political blogsite. When Trancredo trashed VA hospitals, Moulitsas blindsided him.

“Tom, I’m a veteran. Okay?” Moulitsas replied. “I did not get a deferment because I was too depressed to fight a war I supported in Vietnam . I’m a veteran…[Veterans] want a more effective V.A…”

Tancredo, in high dudgeon, demanded an apology. He didn’t get one and walked off the set. See it here:

Tancredo, who has characterized the Iraq war as “America’s noble sacrifice,” fancies himself as ultra pro-military and a super hawk. The New Hampshire Gazette calls him a “Chickenhawk” because he dodged the draft and Vietnam in his salad days.

The Gazette has inducted Tancredo and 135 other birds of a feather into its “Chickenhawk Hall of Shame.”

The Gazette defines a “Chickenhawk” as somebody who, as a youth, chose “to ‘support war,’ while also choosing not to serve in the military.” The Chickenhawk’s motto is “Let’s you and him go fight; I’ll hold your coat,” according to the Gazette.

Gazette scribes don’t pull punches. “Apparently the thought of his ass getting shot off in Vietnam depressed him so much he could not serve,” Tancredo’s Hall of Shame bio reads in part.

The Gazette ranks Tancredo a “Chickenhawk First Class with Distinguished Fleeing Cross.” His bio includes quotes from a Denver Post story about his college days: “As a Republican student activist, Tancredo spoke out in favor of the Vietnam War. After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in June 1969, he became eligible to serve in Vietnam . Tancredo said he went for his physical, telling doctors he’d been treated for depression, and eventually got a ‘1-Y’ deferment.”

I’m 60. An x-ray in a routine physical exam for a summer job while I was in college unexpectedly turned up a potentially crippling spinal deformity. So I flunked my physical for the army and got a “1-Y,” too.

Go ahead; call me a plain “chicken.” But I was against the war and didn’t want anybody going to Vietnam .

Anyway, like Tancredo, Rush Limbaugh was pro-war. He’s another CFC, DFC.

Limbaugh, too, was all for us kicking commie butt in Vietnam . ButLimbaugh used his butt to keep himself in civvies. I’m not kidding. A pilonidal cyst on his tailbone netted Limbaugh a coveted 1-Y.

Even if you were classified 1-A – prime draft meat – during the Vietnam era, you could still stay stateside by joining the National Guard or the Reserve. Few Guard or Reserve outfits were shipped to Vietnam . We all knew it. We joked that “NG” stood for “Not Going.”

But it wasn’t easy to finagle a Guard or a Reserve slot. It took pull. The millionaire Bushes of Texas and Quayles of Indiana had it. Their famous offspring are also in the Chickenhawk Hall of Shame and are CFC and DFC winners, to boot.

Dan Quayle, President George H.W. Bush’s VP, landed in the Hoosier Army National Guard. Bush’s son – the president who landed us in Iraq and Afghanistan – finessed a slot in the Texas Air National Guard.

George W. Bush said he joined up to be a pilot like his daddy. Senior Bush was a decorated Navy combat flier in World War II.

Bush II could have opted for service with the regular Air Force, gone to Vietnam and earned his own medals. But he preferred flying the friendlier skies of the Lone Star State, when he flew at all.

The Democrat Dubya beat in 2004 – with help from a GOP smear machine that flat lied about the guy’s military record — didn’t play on his family pedigree to duck Vietnam . He could have. His daddy was rich and powerful, too.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts enlisted in the Navy and served in Vietnam as a gunboat officer. He got shot at plenty of times on the Mekong River and has a trio of Purple Hearts to prove it. He also earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry for bravery.

On the campaign trail, Dick Cheney, Bush II’s vice president, claimed Kerry was a wimp on military issues. He said the senator’s record was unimpressive “…for someone who aspires to become commander in chief in this time of testing for our country,” according to The New York Times.

Cheney is another Chickenhawk Hall of Shame CFC, DFC. He evaded the draft and Vietnam with a series of college and marriage deferments.

Cheney explained that he had “other priorities” than serving in the military.

“This lumbering heap of wasted protoplasm is the very definition of a Chickenhawk,” according to the Gazette. (By way of comparison, Al Gore, Cheney’s vice presidential predecessor and Bush II’s opponent for president in 2000, was an army journalist in Vietnam, though he opposed the war.)

Cheney’s friend, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), didn’t go to Vietnam either. Cheney called Chambliss “a very courageous man.” The Gazette disagrees.

He’s a “Chickenhawk Supreme” and a CFC, DFC who ”…got himself elected…by casting aspersions on the patriotism of the incumbent, Democrat Max Cleland,” the Gazette says. “Cleland lost three limbs serving his country in Vietnam. Saxby Chambliss was unable to serve because of his bad knees, but somehow is able to totter along as a recreational runner.”

The Hall of Shame isn’t just for politicians. Inductees include some middle aged right-wing media stars who skipped Vietnam. Besides Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, another CFC, DFC, made the list.

“Bill O’Reilly loves to come off as a straight-talking blue-collar kind of guy,” the Gazette says. “Funny, a lot of guys who fit that description and graduated high school the same year he did — 1967 — went straight to Vietnam . Not our Bill — he went to college.”

So did Limbaugh, for a while.

The Gazette also has the goods on Limbaugh. “America’s answer to the Hindenberg dropped out of college after one year,” the Gazette says. “That would have been about 1970. He might, therefore, have been drafted — his too-familiar voice forever silenced before it could reverberate across the nation — had it not been for a pilonidal cyst, or sinus, located near to or on his gluteal cleft.”

Anyway, the Gazette’s roost of Chickenhawks has been out for years. They’re birds that have been easy plucking for a long time.

You’d expect Fox News, the GOP’s propaganda ministry, not to give the Chickenhawk Hall of Shame much play. But the mainstream media has never made much of the hall either. Somebody suggested that might be because a lot of graying print and broadcast newshounds had “other priorities” than military service, too.

For the record: Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have sent troops into harm’s way though they are not veterans either. But Clinton was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, the conflict of his youth. Obama turned 12 years-old in 1973, the year the last U.S. troops left Vietnam and the draft ended.

It’s hypocrisy that riled the Gazette into opening the Chickenhawk Hall of Shame. (Nominations are still being accepted.)

All of us who are sixtysomething know a whole roost of Chickenhawks who aren’t headline-grabbing politicians or media luminaries. I remember one from college.

He was a right-wing Republican who thought President Richard Nixon hung the moon. The guy was all for, as he put it, “Nixon bombing North Vietnam back to the Stone Age.”

He knew I was a McGovernite, as in Sen. George McGovern. He was the anti-war 1972 Democratic presidential hopeful who had flown a B-24 in combat against the Nazis in Europe – and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. (Nixon, who beat McGovern, skippered a desk as a rear-area naval officer in the Pacific.)

Because the Nixon fan was so gung-ho for the war, I suggested he enlist and fight the late Uncle Ho’s minions. You know, stop ‘em in Pleiku before they get to Pomona. “I support the war with my tax money,” he replied.

I haven’t seen the guy in years. I don’t know what he thinks about the bloody mess we’ve gotten into in Iraq and Afghanistan .

I confess I don’t know what to make of it or do about it. But I think cheerleading for war is a tad unseemly for this gray-haired history teacher who got no closer to combat in Vietnam than two years of mandatory ROTC in college.

Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on February 15, 2010
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.

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