An honorable man with guts, a veteran, fights to expose a smear

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This appeal appeared yesterday on the website of an Army veteran, Tim Walz, who is serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives and running for re-election in Minnesota’s First District:

Dear Friends,

The national GOP slime machine went up on the air this past weekend in southern Minnesota with a dangerous and misleading TV ad targeting me.

The right wing is once again playing politics with our national security. The ad shows high-tech security equipment, plays ominous music and flashes photos of Osama bin Laden and me, all while implying that House Democrats have put our country at an increased risk for a terrorist attack.

Yes, you read that right. Osama bin Laden and me featured in the same sleazy Republican ad… reminiscent of Karl Rove’s attack on other Democratic military veterans who have served in Congress, like Max Cleland and John Kerry.

Defense of Democracies, a secretive right-wing lobbying group based in Washington, DC, paid for the $40,000 ad-buy. This well-funded organization favors President Bush’s proposal to grant retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that participated in his illegal wiretapping program. Because I refused to buckle under President Bush’s fear mongering tactics, his neo-conservative buddies are coming after me. And, they are playing dirty.

I served my country for 24 years in the National Guard. I will not take these misrepresentations about my record lying down. No one will question my commitment to protecting the American people… And if we have learned anything from past elections it is that we must counter these Swift Boat ads.”

His supporters are responding with their dollars. But the question he raises hangs, ominous and taunting, over the 2008 elections.

How much have the voters actually learned from the corruptions of decency and truth that emasculated John Kerry’s campaign in 2004?

One thing we probably haven’t learned is how easily it was done. The architects of it were shadowy surrogates of the real political hatchetmen and corporate pirates who brought the Bush government to power. In the middle of it some credulous Democrats actually asked George Bush to disavow the Swift Boat fraud.

Were they serious?

Two years ago at a campaign rally on the banks of Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota, Tim Walz was introduced as the next speaker. As he was stepping to the microphone, a man got up from the second row in the audience and began walking toward the stage where Walz stood. A moment later another came down the aisle to join him, and then more, all of them veterans. Some had served with the candidate, some had never met him. There must have been 40 or 50. They formed a circle around Tim Walz and began applauding in unison. Others on the platform who had worn the uniform joined them. They were together; they felt aroused and united not only because they shared a bond but because this was a man of impeccable public service as a National Guardsman and educator, a man of energy and principle and a demonstrated leader.

Opinion: An honorable man with guts, a veteran, fights to expose a smear

For more reporting on the attack dog ad sponsors, see this recent Minnesota Monitor article.

He unseated the Republican incumbent and became in two years one of the respected members of the new majority in the House. And now he is fighting off an ambush picturing him as a harborer of terrorists.

One reason why defamation is so easy in American politics today is the nosedive decline of what was once characterized as the “mainstream media.” CNN yesterday put together a leery sideshow of clips out of the Obama-Clinton encounters, the happy contestants holding hands, beaming at each other at close quarters, all of this supposed to be prelude to the gut-kicking to follow. CNN’s competitor, Fox, is the de facto White House producer. MSNBC, despite Keith Olberman or some times with him, turns its coverage into vaudeville. The major networks try fairness but news doesn’t deliver the money for them the way the lost-in-the-jungle melodramas do. Newspapers are trying to dodge the bankruptcy courts or are owned by Wall Street. Corporate power owns the radio stations. The New York Times, for years the best newspaper in the world, is trying to fight through a crisis of confidence, worried about political reprisals from the right wing, and not sure of its news judgment anymore.

Which more or less leaves the voters to fend for themselves, as a worried democracy’s ultimate defense. What the voters cannot do is to take their eyes or their good sense away from the real perils for America this year, neatly summarized in today’s opening paragraph from an Associated Press analysis:

“No good news today on the economic front. Consumer confidence plunged, the wholesale inflation rate soared, the number of homes being foreclosed jumped, home prices jumped sharply and a report predicts big increases in health care costs.”

Just in case you thought November is just another month.