Note: This originally appeared, in slightly different form, in the RightWisconsin Daily Update on May 2, 2018.
I get asked sometimes about the toughest races I’ve covered as a newspaper columnist or as a blogger. The toughest for me and my family, believe it or not, was a city attorney race where I reported that one of the candidates had been reprimanded for telling a client to alter evidence.
That one became personal. The candidate even came to my house to see the political yard signs in my yard (put there by my wife) and then proceded to publicize my home address and gave false information about my wife’s voting record. In those kinds of races, that’s when you discover who are your real friends.
Compared to that race, the GOP Senate primary is a group hug (so far).
But it’s been interesting to watch as Kevin Nicholson still can’t let go of Thursday night’s debate. To be fair, in every interview since Nicholson has been asked about the last ten minutes when state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) asked for an apology from Nicholson for implying that Vukmir doesn’t respect his military service.
“My track record? My track record? I would look to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan if you want it. That’s where I’d look first,” Nicholson said at the debate. “I know that doesn’t mean much to certain politicians. I know that darn well.”
Vukmir started shaking her head at this point and said, “That’s wrong. That’s, that’s wrong.”
“For those that have said that leading Marines in combat during the course of two wars does not qualify as conservative credentials need to look inside them and decide what they think conservative credentials are,” Nicholson said at the debate.
After Vukmir’s demand for an apology, Nicholson said at the debate, “If it makes you feel better, I feel respected.”
But instead of moving on by saying, “Of course I know my opponent respects my time in the U.S. Marines,” Nicholson seems intent on re-litigating in every interview since whether his combat experience should be sufficient as his conservative credentials. Ironically, Nicholson is losing the battle he keeps insisting on re-fighting.
We’ve already discussed once in the daily RightWisconsin newsletter whether military service is sufficient to call someone a conservative. The answer is clearly no. And it’s nice to note that Gannett’s token Wisconsin conservative Christian Schneider agrees with me. But it didn’t stop Nicholson from trying to make the same point again Wednesday on the Steve Scaffidi show. Nicholson said that joining the military is itself a conservative act, and that he’s lived “a conservative life.”
That’s just silly. Former Sen. George McGovern, the great liberal candidate for president, was a B-24 Liberator pilot in World War II. When he signed the bottom line to join the military, does Nicholson think that was somehow an insult to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
We can go from one end of the political spectrum to another. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was a great war hero in Vietnam. Does that mean Nicholson should agree with McCain’s views on Obamacare? Does Nicholson agree with General Colin Powell about abortion?
On the flip side, the healthiest president ever in the history of the United States, President Donald Trump, was medically unfit to serve in the military. Does Nicholson believe that renders Trump unfit to be president because he doesn’t have that conservative credential?
What about more libertarian conservatives who don’t believe in foreign intervention and see the military as part of the problem of an ever-growing national security state. Is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in the wrong party?
And what about the history of the Progressive movement that saw the government declaring “war” on everything because while they weren’t thrilled with actual war they admired the organizing principles of the military?
Nicholson is even questioning the “cognitive thought process” of Democrats who continue to be Democrats after they have served in the military. Probably because the question itself when posed to Nicholson undermines the entire rationale of his campaign, “Send in the Marine.”
Ironically, the latest internal memo from Nicholson’s campaign to his supporters says he won the debate. Then why does he insist on losing it the week after?