The Supremes spent some time this week hearing arguments about whether it could be a crime to claim falsely to be a war hero. Or, is there a first amendment right to lie? The genesis of this burble is a law that was passed back in 2005 that responded to a small scandal wherein a bunch of Pentagon back benchers got caught claiming battle medals they had never earned.
Congress, in the normal course of business, had to prove to the world that it was completely aware of what a horrible thing it is to claim falsely to have fought some battle, and so made it illegal to do so. They called it the “Stolen Valor Act.” Now comes the defendant Xavier Alvarez, an admitted professional liar, more or less, who claimed once at a public meeting that he was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.
Of course there are hundreds of people who have claimed to have won the Congressional Medal who never got close to a battlefield. In fact if anyone tells you they have anything higher than a purple heart, doubt it. Most guys who get those things want to forget about it. I think that is perfectly all right. My sense of irony is satisfied that guys who get the Medal do so just so that fools like Alvarez can claim to have done so.
There is another piece of this, though, that I want to look at. (In the interest of full disclosure this notion was floated to me by Pat the Hat, who is usually right.) Congress was so happy to defend the medal itself against claims of lying scumbags, how is it that they have failed to defend the honor of real war heroes? I refer of course to the trashing that John Kerry took at the hands of a well funded scumbag operation called Swift Boat Veterans. Of worse, how about the hatchet job they did on Max Cleland, who gave up two legs and an arm to win his Bronze Star and Silver Medal, or in the 2000 South Carolina primary, the rumor that John McCain was a POW punch.
Me and Pat the Hat are not suggesting that Congress make it illegal to say bad things about war heroes. But I think a sense of Congress resolution defending genuine war heroes whose record in service of their nation was being challenged by a bunch of cheap shot artists who never really served, would have been in order.
The Congress of the United States has long since been consigned to the level of those creatures that slither on their bellies just to get their morning coffee. It would be nice once in a while to see it actually stand up for something that is right and fair and true. Do not hold your breath.