Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 19, 2008
POLITICS: Harkin Up The Wrong Tree

obama_harkin2.jpgSome things are fairly debable in politics, like how important it really is for a president to have military experience. For my own part, I've argued consistently that yes, it's a very useful experience but not in and of itself an essential one.

Some things are not really debatable, and one of those is that Senator Tom Harkin embarrasses the good people of Iowa every time he opens his mouth on this particular topic. And I don't think he's exactly doing Sen. Barack Obama any favors either.

Let's work backwards. Here's Harkin this past Friday:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain's family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, "and he has a hard time thinking beyond that," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.

"I think he's trapped in that," Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. "Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous."

Harkin said that "it's one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that's just how you're steeped, how you've learned, how you've grown up."


He said that "I just want to be very clear there's nothing wrong with a career in the military" and that he has friends who are generals and admirals who have served the country well.

"But now McCain is running for a higher office. He's running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian," Harkin said. "And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don't know if they need a whole lot."

More here and here. Uh, OK, so Harkin thinks it's a bad thing to have a lot of military experience? So, he wouldn't bash a candidate for not having served, would he?

Here's Harkin in August 2004, arguing for John Kerry over Bush and Cheney:

Sen. Tom Harkin called Vice President Dick Cheney a "coward" for avoiding service in Vietnam and called on President Bush to end the "backdoor draft."


"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," Harkin said. "Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough. Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."


Harkin also said that President Bush and Cheney are "running scared because John Kerry has a war record and they don't."

More here. This echoed his 1988 attack on Dan Quayle:

In an editorial in 1988, [The Wall Street Journal] quoted "Senator Tom Harkin who served in Vietnam" (we thought at the time) saying of his Senate colleague Dan Quayle, who did not serve in Vietnam: "It's so ironic; they get in Congress or the government and become big hawks. Don't they have any shame at all?"

Now, assuming you don't just blame Bush for whatever Harkin says, you would at a minimum conclude that Harkin thought Kerry's war record was essential in 2004, right?

harkindean.jpgUm, except that in the primaries in 2004 he supported Howard Dean, who didn't serve because of a supposed bad back that kept him out of Vietnam but not off the ski slopes.

Well, OK, so Harkin doesn't really think it matters if a Democrat has served, right? Well, except that he himself has exaggerated his own service record by claiming falsely that he had flown missions in Vietnam:

In 1979, Mr. Harkin, then a congressman, participated in a round-table discussion arranged by the Congressional Vietnam Veterans' Caucus. "I spent five years as a Navy pilot, starting in November of 1962," Mr. Harkin said at that meeting, in words that were later quoted in a book, Changing of the Guard, by Washington Post political writer David Broder. "One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions. I did no bombing."

That clearly is not an accurate picture of his Navy service. Though Mr. Harkin stresses he is proud of his Navy record - "I put my ass on the line day after day" - he concedes now he never flew combat air patrols in Vietnam.


Maybe Harkin needs to weave this tapestry of hypocrisy and fraud about who has the authority to do and say things about war to cover his own fantasyland view of war, as detailed at some length here and perhaps best illustrated in this video from last summer:

H/T here and here. For those of you who doubt McCain's ability to control his temper, just watch that one carefully - you can almost see the torrent of F-bombs building quite justifiably in his eyes, but he managed a much more restrained and coherent response to Harkin's Holocaust-denial-level revisionism.

Oh, and one more exit question for the NRSC: remind me again why we are letting this guy run unopposed for re-election this year?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

"Oh, and one more exit question for the NRSC: remind me again why we are letting this guy run unopposed for re-election this year?"


Not saying I agree with him being unopposed, but I can understand the NRSC not spending a lot funding a candidate. With limited funds, there are some states that have to be considered poor investments. I'm sure there are some decent people in New York, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Iowa etc. However, barring Harkin (Kennedy, Byrd, etc) being found in bed with dead girl or a live boy there aren't enough decent folks to elect someone else in his place. For the most part once a senator has served two terms they are in there for life unless they voluntarily retire. I do strongly agree with your point that all of Iowa should be ashamed.

Posted by: largebill at May 19, 2008 3:01 PM

No threat = grave threat? The Powerline gang nailed this one, why isn't this joker a laughingstock?

Posted by: abe at May 19, 2008 8:39 PM

You cannot seriously deny that Bush and Cheney are cowards. Dick Cheney is the worst chicken hawk of all time.

Posted by: Magrooder at May 20, 2008 11:51 PM

Just because Cheney has never met a war he wouldn't want his doorman's kid to fight, doesn't mean we have to resort to name calling (even if it is the truth).

Posted by: Robert in BA at May 21, 2008 2:34 AM
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