At Greg's place today, I did a post about things that don't matter much during the president race, at least not as far as affecting the November vote is concerned.
And at Post Partisan I followed up on a terrific Conor Friedersdorf post about the Chris Hayes flap over the weekend. I'll say a bit more here about how I understand the history of this. During Vietnam, some (many?) antiwar protesters targeted the troops themselves. Remember that the draft was on during most of this period, and anyone who didn't approve of the war had to decide whether to be drafted anyway; to find some way of getting out of it; or to refuse the draft and accept the consequences. With that as the backdrop, antiwar protesters (again: some? many?) applied the logic of their own choice to everyone else, under the logic that if everyone refused to fight, the war could not be fought. This was never pretty, but apparently it occasionally (frequently? rarely?) got ugly, with returning troops confronted, and, at least as legend has it, spat upon.
After the war, liberals rethought the whole thing, and decided that had been a mistake, both on practical political grounds (because it was a stupid tactic unlikely to win friends) and on moral and policy grounds. The result has been a thirty-year or more absolute line among mainstream liberals, which I believe extends even to the real lefties, to blame policy-makers but to treat the troops with respect and admiration.
All that is off the top of my head, so no citations, but I think it's all basically true.
What's too bad about all this, from my point of view, is that it has also produced a sort of arms race of overt patriotism, a lot of it militaristic, that is certainly not to my taste, at the very least, and I might if I thought about it oppose substantively. I think the consensus "support the troops" position is just fine, and I'm also perfectly okay with calling all those who serve in the military "heroes." And I like a certain amount of overt patriotism: I love 4th of July parades, and flags in front yards, and patriotic music. But I can't stand the 7th inning God Bless America (and not just because it's far from my favorite patriotic song), and I don't like the major-sporting-event fly-bys, and generally I think a great and proud nation should tone it down a few levels.