Thursday, February 26, 2004

Veteran’s Rehabilitation

From the NY Times, a profile of Max Cleland.

Still bitter over what he regards as Republican attacks on his patriotism in the 2002 Senate race, Mr. Cleland is apparently on a mission, collecting what he calls a “band of brothers” along the way to help Senator Kerry of Massachusetts defeat President Bush. Now on the rebound from his loss to Saxby Chambliss, Mr. Cleland, 62, is emerging as a powerful symbol for both veterans and Democrats — and becoming nettlesome for Republicans, some of whom complain he is exploiting his war wounds for Mr. Kerry’s benefit.

With Republicans, including Mr. Chambliss, calling Mr. Kerry soft on defense — the same accusation they used to defeat Mr. Cleland — the presidential race is increasingly turning into a reprise of the 2002 Georgia campaign.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cleland began appearing in television advertisements for Mr. Kerry in his native Georgia. He also held a conference call to criticize Ed Gillespie, the Republican National Committee chairman, saying that for Mr. Gillespie, who did not serve in the military, to criticize Mr. Kerry, who was wounded three times in Vietnam, “is like a mackerel in the moonlight — it both shines and stinks at the same time.” Earlier, he used the same line against Senator Chambliss.

Democrats are delighted.

“I hope Max is getting some sweet revenge,” said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader.

But Mr. Cleland, who said his 2002 loss was so devastating he was undergoing treatment for depression, insisted that he is not seeking retribution. He is, he said, seeking only healing. “It kind of echoes a truth in my life,” he said recently. “The truth is that politics, fighting for something that I believe in, or someone that I believe in, has been the positive outlet in my life to turn my pain into someone else’s gain, which really heals me.”

I have a feeling he’s going to be inflicting some pain on someone else, too.