Friday, August 07, 2009

Congressman Walz's incovenient interview

The story of Congressman Walz's misleading website and the photo of him falsely claiming to be an Afghanistan War vet has been temporarily on hold for the past few weeks for a couple of reasons. Read the story here and more info here.

First, I keep hoping that Congressman Walz would simply step up and do the right thing. Add two words to his website, and explain (and likely apologize) for the photo. But after a month of phone calls and emails, Walz's staffers have refused to respond, even after promising to do so. Second, local lefty blogger Tommy Johnson filed an official complaint against me with the Minnesota National Guard. Even when I demonstrated that his claim of using my Army email to post from was incorrect, he still persisted. But the Judge Advocate has contacted me and found no wrongdoing.

So it's game on.

At the heart of the issue, Walz is in the wrong if either of two things are true.

One-is it reasonable that using the phrase 'served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom' causes confusion as to whether or not Rep Walz actually served in Afghanistan. If it is confusing, then Rep Walz's use of the phrase on his official website and on his campaign websites means he is intentionally misleading the public about his military service.

Two-did Tim Walz intentionally claim to be an Afghan War vet in 2004 at a protest in Mankato, or was it just a fluke?

Fortunately, Congressman Walz himself admitted that both are true in a June 2006 City Pages interview.

On the first point, does the average person think of Afghanistan when they hear the phrase 'Enduring Freedom'? Tim Walz sure does-
"by luck of the draw, I served in Italy. It was originally Turkey or Iraq and then they changed it to Enduring Freedom and I said, "That's Afghanistan." But they said, "You guys are going to do the supply lines between Turkey and England."

Tim Walz in 2003 was far more knowledgeable than your average citizen about the war. He was a Command Sergeant Major preparing his unit for deployment, and when he heard the words 'Enduring Freedom', he automatically thought Afghanistan. If a career National Guardsmen getting ready to deploy thought 'Afghanistan', it is clearly reasonable that the average person would also think Afghanistan when they hear 'Enduring Freedom'. Yet for 4 years, Congressman Walz has been using an intentionally misleading phrase on his website and campaign literature. Even the Congressman's staffers admit that they have had to correct people who thought the congressman was a combat vet.

Nor am I the first person to call him on it. Two other combat veterans from the 1st CD have asked Walz to clarify his biography to avoid confusion. Both were attacked by the Walz campaign (one by Walz himself) as partisan hacks who were dishonoring veterans. Congressman Walz clearly has no time for veterans who disagree with his exaggerated biography.

On the second point, was Congressman Walz's protest sign, claiming to be an Afghanistan War vet a fluke? As damning as the photo is, if it was just a single occurrence, a simple apology by the congressman to veterans would probably be enough.

But Congressman Walz repeated his false claim of having served in Operation Enduring Freedom in the very same interview.
"Then in '03 and '04 I did 10 months with Operation Enduring Freedom"
Here is the entire paragraph, so that you can see both quotes in context-

CP: You are a member of the Minnesota National Guard. How long was your active service?

Walz: I did two stints where I was full-time. I did it in 1989 and then again in 1992. Then in '03 and '04 I did 10 months with Operation Enduring Freedom, where, by luck of the draw, I served in Italy. It was originally Turkey or Iraq and then they changed it to Enduring Freedom and I said, "That's Afghanistan." But they said, "You guys are going to do the supply lines between Turkey and England." We provided total base security and the training for soldiers coming in.

At first glance, it may not look like Rep Walz lied here. After all, he clearly states that he was in Italy, not Afghanistan. But the key phrase is 'I did 10 months with Operation Enduring Freedom'. That is a clear and demonstrable lie. Operation Enduring Freedom is Afghanistan, and the only people who can claim to have 'did...Operation Enduring Freedom' are men and women who served 30 days boots on the ground or in the air above Afghanistan. Nothing else qualifies.

The question that keeps coming up is why does Congressman Walz even mention Operation Enduring Freedom? Why not simply say he served overseas in support of the War on Terror, as thousands of other soldiers have done in the last 7 1/2 years? Likely for simple political advantage. The confusion over Walz being a combat veteran probably helped him get elected in 2006. I found about a dozen news accounts listing Walz as an Afghanistan combat veteran in 2005 and 2006. Since only one of them showed a correction, I think it is reasonable to assume that the Walz campaign didn't work too hard to correct those factual errors. But as a veteran, Tim Walz had a responsibility to correct any errors to satisfy the code of honor amongst veterans.

Also, it's possible the congressman has a chip on his shoulder. 24 years of steady service to your country, including an overseas deployment, is an achievement to be proud of. But compared to fellow veterans with multiple combat deployments, decorations for valor in action, and having been wounded in combat, 24 years of service and a deployment to Italy looks rather boring on the biography of a man running for Congress. Congressman Walz's vicious attack on a veteran in the Winona paper was overly hostile, even during a political campaign. I wonder if inferiority complexes will be covered under Obamacare?

In the meantime, Congressman Walz's office has refused to comment on the 2004 photo. No explanation, no apology, not even an attempted denial that the man in the photo is Tim Walz. Why has there been no response at all? Probably because that photo not only shows Rep Walz falsely claiming to be an Afghan War vet, it also calls into question the now infamous story of Walz being kicked out of the 2004 President Bush rally in Mankato. More on that story to come.

As always, all opinions expressed above are mine, and do not reflect the official position of the US Army, the Minnesota National Guard, the Minnesota Republican Party, the Steele County GOP, or the International Association of Lawn Gnomes. Just kidding on that last one, the gnomes are fully behind me on this.

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