Reid to Limbaugh: You've got mail

The Senate majority leader hits Rush in the soft spots over his "phony soldiers" attack.

Published October 1, 2007 8:31PM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded this afternoon to Rush Limbaugh's attack on "phony soldiers" with a blistering retort and a letter of protest for senators to sign but no mirror image of the anti-MoveOn resolution Senate Republicans -- and way too many Senate Democrats -- approved last month.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid went right for Limbaugh's soft spots. "During his show last Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh was engaged in one of his typical rants," Reid said. "This rant was unremarkable and indistinguishable from his usual drivel, which has been steadily losing listeners for years, until he crossed [the] line by calling our men and women in uniform who oppose the war in Iraq 'phony soldiers.' This comment was so beyond the pale of decency that it cannot be left alone. And yet, he followed it up with denials and an attack on Congressman Jack Murtha, a 37-year active member of the Marine Corps ...

"Rush Limbaugh took it upon himself to attack the courage and character of those fighting and dying for him and for all of us. Rush Limbaugh got himself a deferment from serving when he was a young man. He never served in uniform. He never saw in person the extreme difficulty of maintaining peace in a foreign country engaged in civil war. Yet he thinks that his opinion on the war is worth more than [that of] those who are on the front lines."

Limbaugh claims his "phony soldiers" comment was aimed at Jesse MacBeth, a Tacoma, Wash., man who made news a year or so ago by describing atrocities he'd committed as a U.S. Ranger in Iraq, only to be revealed later as a fraud who never actually served in the country. To back up that claim, Limbaugh has played for his radio audience what he claims is the "entire" transcript of the discussion in which he referred to U.S. soldiers who advocate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as "phony soldiers." But as Media Matters has reported, Limbaugh's "entire" transcript was actually a highly edited one, and the full transcript suggests that Limbaugh was talking about the antiwar movement more generally.

In his speech today, Reid said that he was leaving a letter on the Senate floor for other senators to sign. It's addressed to the CEO of Clear Channel Communications, which distributes Limbaugh's show, and it asks him to "repudiate" Limbaugh's words and to "ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments."

Reid said that if Republicans who railed against MoveOn's Petraeus/"Betray us" ad were serious that their ire "was truly about patriotism, not politics," then they'll "stand with us against Limbaugh's comments with equal fervor."

No word yet on how many Republicans have lined up to sign, but a couple of GOP presidential contenders have kind of, sort of gone on record criticizing Limbaugh. John McCain has said that Limbaugh should apologize if he said what he's said to have said, and a spokesman for Mitt Romney has said that Romney "would disagree with the negative characterization of those men and women who serve with honor and distinction in the United States military."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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