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GOP Senate candidate owes vets an apology
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With so much bizarre stuff happening these days it's no problem coming up with a weekly column. But occasionally something becomes a definite priority, like a totally asinine statement by a politician.

Of course totally asinine statements by politicians are the rule rather than the exception these days. But this one strikes me the wrong way for two reasons: It is by a candidate who wants to represent this once-progressive state of Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, and it's by a U.S. Marine who should know better, and owes respect to all veterans, regardless of their political views.

U.S. Senate GOP candidate Kevin Nicholson stated in a recent radio interview that he questions the "cognitive thought process" of veterans who vote Democratic, asserting that their military service contradicts their political views.

Whazzat?? He might as well have just called veterans who vote Democratic just a bunch of dummies. Okay, there is nothing new about Republicans calling us card-carrying Democrats dummies, and worse. But if we Democrats don't meet the Republican test of intelligence, it has absolutely nothing to do with military service, or lack of it. That Marine officer should understand that.

Nicholson elaborates, "the Democrat Party has wholesale rejected the constitution and the values that it was founded upon...the bottom line is, they're signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud."

Of course there was no political "test" when we vets originally took that oath. Nor was there another "test" when we were released from active duty. Nicholson does not specify how the Democratic Party is "dragging the constitution through the mud." Maybe he is referring to the proposition that some of us believe there is absolutely no reason for civilians to carry around military assault weapons that are designed to kill people en-masse and have no practical use in self-defense. Which, of course, does not imply "banning the 2nd amendment" or the right to own firearms.

It is rather bizarre to attach a political label to military service. But that doesn't stop Nicholson. Referring to Democrat John Kerry's military service, he asserts that "just because some people that don't call themselves conservatives and don't act like conservatives mean that that's not a conservative thing to fundamentally protect and defend the constitution." In other words, in Nicholson's view, Kerry's military service was "conservative," and should have made him a political conservative. That's a rather disingenuous attempt for conservatives to "own" the concept of military service.

In an apparent attempt to clean up the mess, Nicholson's spokesman, Brandon Moody, made it worse. He informs us that Nicholson became a conservative, at least in part, "because liberal Democrats and the policies they promote have shown overt disrespect to our veterans." So, he apparently thinks that Democratic veterans vote for politicians who, in his view, give them no respect. This kind of nonsense echoes Nicholson's assertion that Democratic veterans have faulty "cognitive thought process."

There is something to the concept that, regardless of rank, length of service, or MOS (military occupation specialty), in my case, a radio operator with the 2nd Marine Air Wing, "Once a Marine, always a Marine." But it has absolutely nothing to do with politics. That common bond that Marines share has to do with the arduous process of attaining the privilege of wearing the eagle, globe and anchor; and the iron discipline that it entails.

Back during the 1950s the majority of males attaining military age served in one way or another. I credit the Corps with giving me the confidence, the determination and the discipline to get through college with a good record. Among other things, success in college is one giant exercise in time management. Although my gut instincts always tended to be Democratic, it was the study of economics and history in college and graduate school that convinced me that it was Democrats, more than Republicans, responsible for programs that promoted individual opportunity, and national social and economic progress.

I'm not in the habit of criticizing Marines, especially for their political views. And obviously, not all veterans think alike when it comes to politics. If candidate Nicholson would get to the U.S. Senate, how would he react to his fellow Marines and other Democratic vets in the Congress? Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton is a six-year Marine Corps veteran. Amy McGrath, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran holding the rank of Lt. Colonel, is a candidate for Kentucky's sixth district. Does he believe these, his fellow Marines, to be "cognitively deficient" because they are veterans and Democrats?

Candidate Nicholson is in one sense an "equal opportunity" critic. During a recent debate he accused his GOP primary opponent, Wisconsin State Senator, Leah Vukmir, of "disrespecting the military." Senator Vukmir can defend herself, and that should be easy. Her son is an Army Ranger. While I'm obviously partial to the Marines, that's good enough for me. After all, my wife has served in the National Guard, and my daughter and son-in-law are both career army officers.

No doubt, Kevin Nicholson is a good Marine. He is entitled to his own political views. I criticize him not for his political views, but for his warped view of veterans who don't think like he does. Good Marines apologize for error.

Wisconsin Republicans have a choice between Nicholson and Vukmir. For the rest of us, the choice is easy. It's our own U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin who has achieved a solid record of fighting for veterans - regardless of their political views.

- John Waelti of Monroe, a retired professor of economics, can be reached at

His column appears Fridays in the Monroe Times.