The XX Factor

Tammy Baldwin’s War Against Sad Veterans

Note Tammy Baldwin’s suspiciously open hands, itching to slap a vet

Photograph by Stan Honda/AFP/GettyImages.

Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is running for Senate against former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, with whom she is tied. There are only two weeks left to campaign. Thompson is getting nervous that Republicans won’t come out in necessary numbers on Nov. 6, and, as Dave Weigel notes, no one in Wisconsin seems to care that his opponent is a lesbian. Time to cue up some Twin Tower devastation! Also: a corn silo, American flags in the wind, and several disappointed-looking veterans.

“Tammy Baldwin had the opportunity to vote to honor the victims of 9/11,” says one sad veteran in Thompson’s latest ad, “and she voted against it.” This is a “slap in the face to every one of their families and anyone who has ever served in the United States military,” which is a lot of face-slapping and would take a very long time to execute. Also, it’s a “very dangerous path” Baldwin is leading us on.

This is politicking so vulgar that not even bloggerly glibness can make it sound more stupid than it is. In 2006, House Republicans crafted a ceremonial resolution to “commemorate 9/11” and also congratulate themselves for voting through the Patriot Act, a border security measure, and various other hastily passed and largely ill-considered responses to the perceived threat of repeat attacks. The resolution includes solemn commendation for a long list of measures, such as the “21st Century Emergency Communications Act of 2006.” Baldwin was apparently less impressed with Congress’s sacrifice of civil liberty in the name of “the Homeland.” That, or she hates veterans and their families.

This genre of campaign blackmail is so effortless it seems that every bill should have some kind of ceremonial resolution attached, such that candidates can later claim everyone who voted against any bill also hates firefighters and puppies. Over a decade after 9/11, veterans remain the go-to class of people on whom to project hurt feelings. You’d think they sit around staring at American flags and waiting for commemorative House resolutions lest they fail to live another day uncommemorated.  I feel obligated by Scott Brown’s attempted anti-military-impersonation act to tell you that I am not a war hero, but I can still imagine that it would be rather unpleasant to come back from a war and find that you’re being caricatured in political ads as sad-faced, perpetually offended, and subject to repeat victimization by the absence of unanimous support for the Patriot Act.