From Iraq to Congress
Better to run for Congress than from RPG's
They Served, and Now They're Running
By JAMES DAO and ADAM NAGOURNEY
Published: February 19, 2006
FOR Democrats struggling to win back Congress, it seemed like the most obvious of election strategies: erase the Republican advantage on national security by running real-life combat veterans as candidates.
In theory, at least, a candidate with a uniform, rank and military résumé should be redoubtable: a symbol of strength, patriotism and resolve, and at least somewhat inoculated from the debilitating personal attacks that have come to represent American politics.
So it is in the 2006 Congressional elections, soldier-candidates are marching across the campaign field in numbers not seen in a half-century, many veterans of the Iraq, Afghan, Vietnam, Balkan and first gulf wars — nearly 100 candidates in all, not including a single incumbent.
Most are Democrats, but Republicans have come up with their own veterans as well. Many were recruited by their parties, but others decided to run on their own or were encouraged by left-leaning bloggers who think these candidates can help Democrats win back Congress. Some candidates are motivated by opposition to the Iraq war, but others are talking about health care, job creation or energy.
Many Democratic candidates present themselves as the saviors of the party, saying they had been united both by opposition to Republican policies and by attacks on them or other veteran candidates.
"There has been a fundamental change in the paradigm of politics today," said Eric Massa, a retired Navy officer who is running for Congress in upstate New York. "I don't think Republicans even realize this." Yet, for all the country's reverence of military service and military heroes — from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant to Dwight Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy — does the soldier-politician still sell well in American politics?
In truth, despite all the Democratic emphasis on recruiting candidates with military experience, veterans may not be nearly the invincible candidates they once seemed to be. After all, attacking war heroes has been fair game: John Kerry's Vietnam record was attacked when he ran for president, and Max Cleland, a triple-amputee and Vietnam veteran, lost his Senate seat in Georgia in 2002 after Republicans accused him of being soft on national security. John McCain, when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, was accused of abandoning veterans. Many of the newest candidates are discovering that the political battlefield may be as challenging as the military one.
"It might actually put a bull's eye on our back," said Jeff Latas, a Democrat and gulf war veteran running in Arizona, when asked if it helped to be a veteran in running for office these days.
Here's the difference: swiftboating has its limits. When they tried it with Murtha, it failed badly.
I think the attacks won't be nearly as effective this go round, because these folks are actully networking and supporting each other as their campaigns start.Not all will win, but this hasn't happened since the end of WWII.
And the sheer numbers mean that some will win and if they do, they will be on the Bushies back.
But let's toss the question in the air, does it make a difference?
posted by Steve @ 12:44:00 AM