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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

More Republican Misbehavior

Aside from the Delayniac hijinks mentioned in my last post, there’s a far more serious example of House Republican misbehavior on display in Pennsylvania. Rep. Curt Weldon has launched a series of attacks on Democratic rival Joe Sestak that began with a Swift-Boat-style attack on the service record of the 31-year-Navy-veteran and retired three-star admiral, and quickly strayed over every conceivable line of decency by questioning the Sistak family’s choice of treatment for their daughter’s potentially fatal brain tumor. Jonathan Kaplan of The Hill has the whole outrageous story today, but here’s a precis: Weldon is retailing charges that Sestak, a Clinton administration National Security Council staffer, and more recently director of the Navy’s internal think tank, Deep Blue, made his subordinates and superiors unhappy with his hard-driving style. You can read the back-and-forth on this subject in Kaplan’s article, but it sure looks to me like Sestak was a tree-shaker who discomfited the notoriously change-averse Navy establishment, which is a good thing. But whatever the facts on this case, it’s incredible that Weldon would have the chutzpah to attack Sestak’s service record, while continuing to support the policies of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. After all, the former Texas Air National Guard veteran Bush spent much of the Vietnam War running an Alabama Senate race. And his hireling, the current Secretary of Defense, has caused a lot more unhappiness in the armed forces than any one figure in recent history, while compiling a disastrous record of incompetence. How can Weldon possibly suggest that Sestak’s service actually disqualifies him from serving in Congress? It gets, unfortunately, a lot worse. Weldon also attacked Sestak for merely renting a home back in Pennsylvania, while living in suburban Washington (a criticism which I am sure Weldon would not make of Leesburg, Virginia resident Rick Santorum). When Sestak explained that he lingered in Washington because his daughter was undergoing chemotherapy and various surgeries in a local hospital, Weldon breezily suggested that Sestak should have relocated his daughter to a hospital in Pennsylvania or nearby Delaware. This is beyond disgusting. My first impulse on reading Kaplan’s story was to propose that Weldon be horse-whipped. My second impulse was to demand that every other Republican repudiate Weldon’s tactics. And that’s why it’s especially troubling to me that Sen. John McCain, proud Navy veteran and war hero, and the victim of Weldon-style scurrilous attacks on his family by the Bush campaign of 2000, headlined a fundraiser for the Pennylvania Republican just last Saturday. Fine, support your party’s candidates. Fine, praise Weldon’s legislative record. And fine, maybe you didn’t know what Weldon was saying about his opponent. But please, don’t lend your name to a man willing to smear the record and family of Joe Sestak. There are some things that cannot be justified by partisan politics, and if this doesn’t qualify, I don’t know what ever would.

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