An excerpt from Paul Waldman's essay for Media Matters about this latest right-wing distraction:
Think about how much time and effort they expend on convincing Americans that progressives and Democrats are "anti-military," "hate the troops," and even "hate America." So any progressive veteran who criticizes Bush administration policies represents a profound threat to all the arguments they have made. It becomes particularly thorny when nearly the entire current leadership of the conservative movement -- not only media figures like Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, but also political figures including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and many others -- were of draft age during the Vietnam war but managed to stay out of harm's way.
Let's be clear: I'm not arguing that any particular individual on that list didn't have legitimate reasons to avoid serving in Vietnam -- some may have. Nor am I arguing that the opinions of veterans on matters of national security are necessarily more valid simply because they are veterans. The point is that accusations of troop-hating and insufficient patriotism are difficult to wield at veterans, particularly when thrown by those who were subject to the draft but managed to avoid it.
Unless, that is, they can argue that the veteran in question isn't a real veteran, that his service wasn't real service, that his sacrifice wasn't real sacrifice, and that his patriotism isn't real patriotism. So that's exactly what they do.
If this were the first, or second, or even third time this had happened, one might be able to come up with another plausible explanation. But what we heard this week with Rush Limbaugh was a replay of a record we've heard many times before: a war critic with a military record emerges, and the right responds by attacking his patriotism, arguing that his service wasn't real, or both.