The Lighter Side of Max Cleland


Former Senator Max Cleland, the triple-amputee Vietnam Veteran impugned by "Saxby Chambliss" for lack of patriotism, gets an interesting profile in The Washington Post. "It was the second big grenade in my life," he says of his defeat in last year's election. "It blew me up. It happened very quickly and very intensely, and I was left with virtually nothing but my life." He also had his handicapable Cadillac totaled by a befuddled parking attendant. On the plus side, he's getting married.

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  1. Chambliss did not just criticize Cleland for “not supporting this or that policy.” He basically called him a terrorist. Anyone who thinks that qualifies as politics as usual has a very low, very cynical view of politics. You want to criticize Cleland for his homeland security vote? Fine, go ahead. But how can you question his patriotism? Forget about his injuries — the key fact is that he fought for his country, while his opponent chickened out. For my money, putting your life on the line says a helluva lot more about your patriotism than casting a vote.

  2. I live in Georgia and remember seeing the ad. It was pretty disgusting, but does it really surprise anyone that a politician would lie and defame his opponent to get elected. I have no love lost for either Chambliss or Cleeland, both pretty much suck equally in my book. But you gotta love the honesty in this quote from Cleland in the article:

    “I had no job, no girlfriend, no car, no hope,” he says. “I figured this is a good time to run for the state Senate.

  3. Just because “that’s how politics is” does not make it right. Give me a break. Any reasonable person not blinded by partisan politics knows better than that.

  4. Pat Cameltoe, my normal reliability has not failed me here, I swear! It’s fair to say an ad that shows Saddam, Osama and Max in that order, to impart the message that Cleland is soft on terror, does impugn his patriotism. After all, what patriot wouldn’t want to defend his country? I think you may be getting at the idea that party hacks made a bigger deal out of this than it deserved, which I think is true. I would have overstepped if I’d claimed the bin Laden ad contributed to Cleland’s defeat; the Post argues that the Confederate flag dispute was a bigger factor.

  5. The ad stated that Clelend was soft on security. Am I to take it that somebody injured in war can never be accused of being soft on security? I mean, have y’all been living in this country for the past 30 years? These are how ALL political advertisements are crafted. Bush decides to slightly delay an unimplemented arsenic rule, and he’s accused of wanting to poison our children. Clinton says he wants to raise CAFE by 1 mpg over sixty years, and Republicans accuse him of wanting to destroy the US auto industry.

    Such accusations are stupid and fundamentally dishonest. I’m sure the Chambliss ad was just as bad.

    But it strikes me as rank fetishization to suggest that some politician should be deemed immune to similar criticism if he’s lost a limb (or three). We all owe Cleland and all war heros a debt of gratitude, but we’re all grown-ups here. This is special pleading.

  6. Cleland’s got feet of clay.

  7. Pat: I can’t tell if you’re being stupid for the sake of stirring things up, or simply because you’re stupid. Either way, I’d sincerely hope that you could make a distinction between criticizing someone’s position on an issue — even distorting his position — and calling him a traitor to his country.

    No one is saying Cleland should have been re-elected because he lost three limbs. No one is saying that he should be immune from criticism. But when someone who weaseled out of a war questions the patriotism of someone who fought and nearly died for his country, we’ve gone beyond “fundamentally dishonest” and sunk all the way to “completely indecent.” And that’s not a strictly partisan viewpoint; what Tim fails to mention is that the “party hacks” who made a big deal out of this included Republcan senators McCain and Hegel. Who, by the way, know a little something themselves about what it means to serve our country.

  8. The normally reliable Tim Cavanaugh, I see, has fallen for the “Max Cleland’s patriotism has been impugned” canard. This is a bogus argument (and I say this as somebody who feels Bush betrayed Cleland, who was more useful to Bush as a supportive conservative Democrat than Chambliss will ever be).

    Politicians are not above criticism, Tim. Even triple-amputee war-hero politicians. Electioneering is always messy, ugly, and always entails the stretching of the truth. What happened to Clelend is no better or worse than what has happened to virtually any other politician who has ever run for office.

    Criticism for not supporting this or that policy initiative no more impugns the patriotism of a one-limbed politician than it does a four-limbed politician. Get serious.

  9. Are you out of your mind? Saying a triple amputee veteran isn’t supporting homeland security is a lot worse than saying a City Councilman is soft on crime. Putting that hero’s face next to people who work hard at killing Americans is an obvious slap at his patriotism.

    If Chambliss’s smear is so defensible, why won’t he defend it?

  10. ^ i agree that cleland is not responsible for this and that chambliss is a goon, but
    1. bravery? he dropped a grenade and looked at it and it blew up. thats stupidity not bravery
    2. again, not clelands fault but fighting in the vietnam war is hardly a service to the country (though its true its not like he had much choice in the matter) seeing as vietnam was perhaps the mos monumental series of atrocities the US has ever engaged in in the twentieth century, bar dresden biroshima and nagasaki.

  11. “I’d sincerely hope that you could make a distinction between criticizing someone’s position on an issue — even distorting his position — and calling him a traitor to his country.” And to call someone a traitor who has sacrificed so much makes it even worse.

    Jacob, Max Cleland didn’t start that stupid war. I don’t think we can hold it against him that he answered the call in the 60s instead of the 40s.

  12. i noted that. i don’t hold against him that he fought in i, (though my respect for, say, chomsky is increased when i learn that he evaded it in a non-cowardly way) but all i am saying is: POLITICALLY, which is the context in which we are considering mr. cleland, it was a mediocre decision that mr. cleland had no power to make. therefore, fighting in vietnam because it was the law that he had to no more gives mr. cleland automatic nat’l security credentials than taking out the trash because my wife forces me to makes me a neat freak. and the nfortunate coincidence that e blew himself up does nothing to alleviate that fact.

    i don’t criticise mr. cleland for beign drafetd and getting blown up. but neither should this choice which he didn’t make, or getting exploded in a noncombat situaion, reason to give him credentials on natl security.

    i hope this explains my position adequately, joe.

  13. Hal E (Berry?) –

    Who called Cleland a “traitor”? Nobody, that’s who. That’s YOUR characterization of Chambliss’s criticisms of his policy positions. In other words, you’re proving my point.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, please. I watched “Deliverance” once, so thankfully I don’t live in Georgia. Maybe I missed something. So tell me: When did anybody every call Max Cleland a “traitor”?

  14. Straining that hard to be obtuse must be murder on the deltoids.

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