Politico reports this morning:
Democrats need to win in conservative parts of the country next year to capture the House and keep the Senate — and they’re turning to a few good men (and women) to help.
The party has mounted a concerted push to recruit military veterans to run in next year’s midterm, figuring it’s a lot harder for Republicans to caricature people who’ve donned their country’s uniform as Obama-loving liberals.
This may be bad for the GOP, but it is probably good for the country. Quite frankly, we need more combat veterans to run for office in both parties – because both parties are becoming increasingly dovish and isolationist.
On the Democratic side, the “Scoop Jackson Democrats,” who were liberal on domestic issues and conservative on national security, are now all but extinct. We saw this during the recent debate over Syria, when so many Democrats were unwilling to support their own president in conducting even “unbelievably small” military strikes against the Assad regime.
On the Republican side, we are also seeing a rise in isolationist sentiment with the election of folks like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and, in the House, Justin Amash. We saw their influence when four out of ten House Republicans voted to shut down the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program (a program started by a Republican president), or when congressional Republicans steadfastly refused to include any automatic tax increases as part of the sequester, but were perfectly OK with allowing massive, across-the-board defense cuts.
The most prominent exceptions to this rising isolationist tide in the GOP have been military veterans – folks like Reps. Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo, who are fiscal and foreign policy hawks. Republicans need to recruit more Tom Cottons and Mike Pompeos.
That said, not all veterans are national security hawks – just look at Tammy Duckworth, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel. Just because someone wore the uniform, does not mean they are good on national security. But generally speaking, veterans tend to be more hawkish on national security issues than civilians – and replenishing the ranks in both parties would be a good idea.
What’s most fascinating is the kind of veterans the Democrats have tapped to run for Congress. They’re recruited Suzanne Patrick, a former Pentagon official in the Bush administration, to run for Congress as a Democrat in Virginia Beach. They’ve recruited Jerry Cannon, a former general who served as head of detention operations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 – back during the height of the (false) allegations that we were torturing GTMO detainess. He is running for Congress as a Democrat in Michigan. And they have recruited Kevin Strouse, an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and then joined the Central Intelligence Agency, where he spent six years working in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center – the folks who gave us enhanced interrogation and drone strikes.
The Bush Pentagon, Guantanamo, and the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center are certainly unusual recruiting grounds for Democratic congressional candidates.
We’ll have to see where they come out on national security questions. Are they hawks or repentant liberals who regret their prior service? That will certainly become clear as their campaigns progress. But the fact that Democrats are recruiting candidates such as these shows just how desperate they are to take back the House.