Air America's New Standard Bearer

The standard liberal rap on President George W. Bush includes the often-disproved allegation that he failed to deliver on his military service commitment during the Viet Nam War Specifically, the left accuses the President of signing up for the National Guard to avoid being sent to Viet Nam and then reneging on his Guard duties to go off and do something frivolous while American draftees were fighting and dying in Asian jungles.

I was reminded of this liberal mantra this week as I read a fawning piece on the new standard bearer for the nation’s only liberal talk radio network, Thom Hartman. But first we have to admit that, fresh from bankruptcy, Air America may still be relevant to where this country goes in the war in Iraq.

Want to sell a message to America? No problem. The left owns just about every communications venue. The nightly television news (FOX and O’Reilly excepted), what passes for newspaper reporting, editorial pages, music, movies, and a sizeable portion of the World Wide Web.

Want to tell America that there’s no way GW’s troop surge can ever work? Your message will reach the ears and eyes of Americans unadulterated…with one exception.

Talk Radio.

The one safe harbor left for the red-state half of America is the voices of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and others (yours truly included so I have a dog in this fight too). Liberals want to own that piece of media real estate, even if they have to force it on you through a return of the deceptively named "Fairness Doctrine" that would require radio stations to leaven their Limbaugh with left wing lunacy.

The Air America Radio network was intended as the antidote to Neo Conservative talkers. Trouble is, it got off to a shaky financial start with promoters claiming tens of millions more in financial resources that it really had. AAR got caught taking money from a children’s charity in the Bronx. It was also bought out of bankruptcy for a price that wouldn’t pay Al Gore’s annual fossil fuel bill. In just the last week, AAR has seen the departure of its biggest name, comedian Al Franken, who is off to run for the U.S. Senate.

The guy picked to fill the funny man’s shoes…and go toe-to-toe with the single most successful man in talk radio…is Thom Hartmann. Thom and I know each other; we work in the same city (Portland, Oregon) for different companies but in studios that are only a few hundred yards apart. We disagree about almost everything political but we regularly swap e mails and we’ve even broken bread on occasion.

Then I read about his military record.

The February 19 Portland Oregonian newspaper (aka, The Daily Fish Wrapper) ran a glowing piece about Franken’s replacement this week. It quotes the Viet Nam era college student saying, "I realized Lyndon Johnson wanted to kill me," and then went on to say:

"…Hartmann joined the Air Force, thinking he could work as an engineer, thus avoiding dangerous duty. Quickly realizing he was wrong, Hartmann managed to flunk an end-of-basic training physical, earning a quick ticket back to civilian life. Back at Michigan State, Hartmann spun records and read the news on a local radio station." (emphasis added).

From this it’s only reasonable to infer that Hartman lied his way out of the Air Force, which is a federal crime. Under Article 83 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

Any person who–

(1) procures his own enlistment or appointment in the armed forces by knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment as to his qualifications for the enlistment or appointment and receives pay or allowances thereunder; or

(2) Procures his own separation from the armed forces by knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment as to his eligibility for that separation;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

The man who will now lead the liberal battle against Rush Limbaugh in talk radio and who will tell America daily about the illegal war by the illicit president with the questionable military record has some very serious questions to answer about his apparent violation of the UCMJ.

I challenged Oregonian writer Peter Carlin about the softball treatment of Hartmann’s departure from the military and he responded via e-mail on February 19, 2007:

If Thom were aggressively advocating that other people go off to fight after avoiding wartime service — e.g. noted military enthusiasts Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh, et. al — the conflict would have been that much more striking. For Thom, who is nothing if not a persistent voice against the war, it’s just another step in the established pattern. An interesting topic, though. Were you draft age during ‘Nam? And what’d you do about it?

Thom will now lead the AAR talkers in telling America that we are in an illegal war created by an illegal President with an illicit record of military service. I wonder whether he will tell his audience that in 1967 America had a legal draft and a legal right to demand service from Thom and he found a way to get around it? Will he admit or deny lying his way out of the Air Force?


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