I guess veterans are the right wing's new favorite sacred cow. Having discovered, via the phony DHS domestic-terrorism controversy, that they can glee
April 28, 2009

I guess veterans are the right wing's new favorite sacred cow. Having discovered, via the phony DHS domestic-terrorism controversy, that they can gleefully club liberals over the head with anything even remotely resembling a slight to the sacred honor of American veterans -- such slights, evidently, including insufficiently abject prostration -- Republicans are now wielding said club at every available opportunity.

Let's face it: the Right really hates that the folks in the military in fact love President Obama. And so propagating the notion that Democrats are "anti-military" is a big deal right now.

Last week, for instance, as the new federal hate-crimes bill was passing out of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida tried to include veterans in the list of protections.

This was a classic right-wing twofer: Work to undermine the hate-crimes bill, and smear Democrats at the same time! Pretty, clever, eh?

Sure enough, after Glenn Beck coughed this one up Friday night, there was Sean Hannity last night, regurgitating Beck's stale hairball:

Hannity: Now, Congresswoman, including our soldiers in this bill would not belittle anybody. And I think you and Janet Napolitano need to revisit your opinion of our veterans.

Actually, Feeney's proposal would render the legislation moot and unconstitutional, because it would then be predicated on the idea of creating "protected classes." And, as has been already explained many times, hate-crimes bills aren't about creating "protected categories" -- they are strictly written to encompass the motives of the perpetrator:

Hate-crime statutes are neither written to protect specific classes of persons from assault nor to enhance the charges simply when a person from a "protected class" is the victim of a crime. We don't have laws that create stiffer time if you simply assault a black or a Jew or a gay person. The laws don't even specify races or religions. Such laws would be in clear violation of basic constitutional principles, including the equal-protection clause.

In fact, the actual class status of a victim is almost secondary to the decision whether or to file a hate-crimes charge or not. The primary concern is the motivation of the perpetrator. All of these laws are written to punish people more severely for committing a crime committed with a bias motivation.

Not everyone ever joins an armed service. Veteranhood is a not a universal trait. But the categories of bias motivation -- race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sexual preference -- are universal human traits:

[Bias crime laws] are intended to protect everyone equally from these kinds of crimes. Everyone, after all, has religious beliefs of one kind or another; we all have a race, a gender, an ethnicity, a sexual orientation. A quick look at the FBI's annual bias-crime statistics bears this out; anti-white bias crimes are the second-largest category of racial crimes, and anti-Christian crimes constitute the second-largest in the religion category. If the laws were written as [Rooney] suggests, they couldn't possibly pass the Constitution's equal-protection muster; yet these laws have.

Finally, bias-crime laws have always been about addressing real, identifiable social pathologies that have a toxic effect on larger society. Bias crimes against veterans -- who for the most part are fairly capable of defending themselves anyway; indeed, it strikes me as insulting to cast them in the role of victims -- are not, as far as anyone can demonstrate, an identifiable problem at this time. However, racially, religiously, ethnically, and sexually motivated bias crimes are indeed very real phenomena.

It is indeed an insult to the victims of those crimes to try to trivialize their suffering with cheap tactics like this. And it's downright obscene to claim that saying so is "anti-military" or "bashing the soldiers."

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