Ouch.

Thanks to Jay for pointing this out to me.

Yesterday, C-SPAN II, as part of its regular weekend books coverage, ran a reading/q & a with Ben Ferguson, the young conservative author of It’s My America Too. The plaintive whimpering of that title–in particular that “too”–is typical of the phony underdog position conservatives insist on taking to make themselves look like insurgents. Republicans control the presidency, the Senate, the House, and much of the judiciary, Fox News is #1 in cable news, the rightwing rules talk radio, and yet here’s little big Ben, who at the age of 22 hosts his own rightwing radio show, pouting about feeling like an outsider in his own country, boo hoo.

At one point in his talk, he made light of John Kerry’s war medals and wounds, snickering that Kerry’s decision to go to Vietnam to be shot at was pure “opportunism,” and that if he’d been wounded as badly as all that he’d be in “a real nice wheelchair” now. Of course, if Kerry had been crippled and reduced to a wheelchair, that wouldn’t spare him further mockery, as Max Cleland has learned.

Now at this point a certain type of liberal will quote Joseph Welch’s famous question to Joe McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Liberals of a certain age love quoting that stirring heroic retort. When Anthony Lewis was a Times columnist, he used to quote it every other week it seemed, and I saw Richard Cohen pull a Joseph Welch a few columns ago.

But I won’t. The question is no longer worth raising, even rhetorically. Because we know the answer.

They have no decency. Not a sliver, not a shred. Look at how Max Cleland has been treated, look at how George Soros has been smeared as some sort of Jewish intriguer who oozed his way out of Nazi Germany by Tony Blankley* and a drug kingpin by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, look at–oh, we know what the examples are.

Ben Ferguson can snicker that if John Kerry had incurred real injuries he’d be in a nice wheelchair today and the middleaged white fools sitting in the bookstore don’t even raise a peep, which makes you wonder if ten years from now it’ll be open season on any American vet from the Iraq campaign who’s missing limbs or carrying shrapnel and gets out of political line. There is a myth that the Left spat on returning Vietnam vets in the Seventies. Well, the Right spits on Vietnam vets every day with impunity, and will spit on future vets. Conservatives support the military only in the vague abstract; beneath their patriotic bluster and sentimentality, they basically think soldiers are chumps, risking their lives when they could be staying home, making money, and carving out a neat career, as Ben has done.

Do you really think that Rush and Newt and Dick Cheney and the rest of them regret that they didn’t serve in Vietnam, that they didn’t do their part for a war they supported and whose cause they still think was just? Do you really think Ben Ferguson wishes he was in uniform fighting for democracy in Iraq instead of plastering his Lumpy Rutherford face on TV?

They have no conscience, they have no decency, so let’s stop fake-pretending that they do.

Ouch. From James Wolcott.