Some clarity in the Chris Hayes debacle

Mark Judge Journalist and filmmaker
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What else did you expect from Chris Hayes? Hayes, the lefty MSNBC host (now there’s a redundancy), got into trouble over Memorial Day weekend by saying he felt “uncomfortable” calling Americans who die in battle “heroes.” Conservatives went nuts, including Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis, who told the Daily Caller, “If Mr. Hayes feels uncomfortable, I suggest he enlist, go to war, then come home to what he expects is a grateful nation but encounters the opposite. It’s far too easy to cast stones from inexperience.”

This is a terrible answer that will play right into the hands of Hayes and the left. The left does not like America’s military or the country’s military history, and for decades has gotten away with this by telling a lie. Liberals claim that slamming America’s armed forces is actually a form of patriotism — that because they dearly love our troops and want them to come home, they have to criticize them. Joe Davis’s answer about fighting in a war and then coming home to a hostile nation will only let Hayes repeat this lie. Any day now you can expect some more bedwetting from Hayes in the form of tweets and/or an op-ed dribbling about how he doesn’t want “our troops” coming home to an ungrateful nation either, which is why he is reluctant to use the term hero when talking about the troops. He will bring up Vietnam without mentioning the carnage that took place after America left.

I would even go so far as to say that the general idea behind Hayes’s words is one that most military people would agree with: War is bad and nobody likes it. Hayes, being a liberal, does not talk to people or read books that might disabuse him of his worldview, but I have never met a member of the United States Armed Forces who likes war. Further, the military people I have known (friends in college and a Navy SEAL who lived across the street from me for several years) have been much more informed, open-minded, and willing to debate issues than any liberal I’ve ever met — especially the journalists.

Yet even if the sentiment behind what Hayes said is sound, the epicene MSNBC host will avoid the larger truth: Liberals do not like the military because they do not like or accept the version of America that deviates from their “progressive” textbooks. That’s an awkward description, but it is necessary because debate tends to shut down if you simply say that liberals “hate America.” This is not true. Liberals love America — their version of America. To them the country’s history goes like this: A long time ago some white guys who owned slaves founded America. Then there was the civil rights movement, the pill, Vietnam (i.e., the protests), Watergate, the women’s movement and gay marriage. Everything else belongs to the other America. The one they don’t talk about.

Conservatives make a mistake when they claim that liberals hate America. Many of the items in the left’s version of America deserve praise: the civil rights movement, tolerance for gay people, and (sensible) environmentalism, for instance. But liberals never seem to show plain love for the U.S.A. — all of it. I don’t mean a love divorced from reason, but one based on the fact that for most of its history America has behaved as a great, not just good, country. That we have only gone to war reluctantly and mostly to help innocent people. That it is a beautiful and exciting place to live, full of not only free people, but decent people. That we invented baseball.

Chris Hayes can’t talk this way because he has been educated in the more toxic side of leftism: the statism, the illogic, and, most obnoxiously, the oedipal resentment of the United States and the attendant habit of turning personal and psychological issues into public policy. Social critics from historian James Hitchcock to Christopher Lasch and Ann Coulter have noted how, starting in the 1960s, the left, in Hitchcock’s phrase, began “using protest as a form of public and personal therapy.” And in his landmark 1979 book “The Culture of Narcissism,” Christopher Lasch revealed how a personality disorder had shaped the modern American left. The clinical narcissist, lacking a strong inner core, turns to the state to solve all of his problems.

I sometimes think that it’s because a lot of these people have never had the snot knocked out of them (even while playing a sport), which can teach you tough lessons about limits and life and that you can’t always get what you want. Chris Hayes went to Brown University, where he studied philosophy and was a member of the school theater company. He was taught Dogmatic Liberalism 101, which doesn’t instruct nihilism, but rather warped virtue — that goodness is not found in tradition, God, or country, but in attacking them. And were Hayes less orthodox in his beliefs, he might be able to make a case that it is important to question assumptions, provided those questions are grounded in reason. But were he to argue from reason, he would have to concede that America has done some great and wonderful things, things that are not in Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” He would have to admit that, all in all, we are indeed a great and good country.

But alas, the left lost its reason a long time ago. Recently Obama butler Andrew Sullivan openly wept on television, burbling that in accepting gay marriage, the president, “a father figure,” had welcomed Sullivan into his family. When Chris Hayes was making his point about heroes causing wars, the collection of lefty bobbleheads on his panel all nodded; I mean, of course we should reject calling American soldiers heroes. Only Pat Buchanan could think otherwise.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.