Here’s an excerpt from Sen. McCain’s response to Sen. Obama’s criticism of him for not supporting Sen. Webb’s bill to expand veterans’ educational benefits:
I know that my friend and fellow veteran, Senator Jim Webb, an honorable man who takes his responsibility to veterans very seriously, has offered legislation with very generous benefits. I respect and admire his position, and I would never suggest that he has anything other than the best of intentions to honor the service of deserving veterans. Both Senator Webb and I are united in our deep appreciation for the men and women who risk their lives so that the rest of us may be secure in our freedom. And I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did. (Emphasis supplied, as we say in the legal biz.)
This is obviously intemperate. But even more, it suggests to me a dangerous militarization of public discourse — a belief that service in the armed forces is a necessary precondition to participating in a debate on a matter of public importance. This is an anathema to civil society, and is profoundly un-American.