"Liberals Hate the Military?" Not This Again.

As Chris Matthews revealed last night after President Obama's speech, some pieces of Beltway conventional wisdom just won't die:

"It seems like in this case, there isn't a lot of excitement," Matthews said. "I watched the cadets, they were young kids - men and women who were committed to serving their country professionally it must be said, as officers. And, I didn't see much excitement. But among the older people there, I saw, if not resentment, skepticism. I didn't see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there. The president chose to address tonight and I thought it was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp tonight to make his case. I mean, that's where Paul Wolfowitz used to write speeches for, back in the old Bush days. That's where he went to rabble rouse the "we're going to democratize the world" campaign back in '02. So, I thought it was a strange venue."

Oddly enough, Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review had the best response to this bit of idiocy from Matthews. That said, Tweety isn't alone in thinking that liberals "hate the troops"; Dana Milbank said as much in his column yesterday when he argued that liberals are "uneasy" about Obama's appearances before military audiences. Still, it's incredibly frustrating to see this piece of zombie conventional wisdom shamble through elite discourse, if only because liberals have consciously been pushing against it for years.

When it came to opposing the Iraq War, liberals were careful to distinguish between opposing the policy but supporting the troops. In fact, "support the troops by bringing them home" has been and still is a fairly common liberal refrain. What's more, liberals haven't been particularly shy about any of this: In each election cycle since the wars began, liberals have attacked Republicans for being insufficiently supportive of the troops. During the Bush administration, liberals -- and Democratic politicians -- regularly criticized Republicans for their failure to purchase appropriate equipment (body armor, for instance), provide adequate veterans' benefits, or for their reliance on "stop-loss" to maintain troop levels. Indeed, liberals were so desperate to escape the anti-military stigma that they flocked to Gen. Wesley Clark during the 2004 primaries. When it became clear that Clark had neither the will or organization to mount a credible campaign, they joined their moderate and conservative fellow-travelers in anointing a Vietnam veteran, John Kerry, as their standard-bearer against George W. Bush.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. As long as Beltway types continue to propagate the myth that Democrats (and liberals in particular) are hostile to the military, and as long as voters respond positively to that myth, it will be necessary for the Democratic Party to embrace the military establishment in any way that it can, regardless of the consequences and regardless of the merits. And when both major political parties are unwilling to break from or criticize the military establishment in any meaningful sense, it makes it incredibly difficult to create even the smallest space for credible disagreement with the "military-industrial-political" complex.

--Jamelle Bouie

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