Ray Suarez of the PBS Newshour was in NY-29 last week doing interviews about the congressional race. The piece he was preparing aired on Friday September 29. (link) Audio is available at the link. I told Suarez about a dirty swiftboat trick Kuhl was using against me, questioning why I didn't rise to a higher rank than Commander after 24 years of service.
Although Kuhl denied the swiftboating, Suarez decided to check for himself to find out if I was telling the truth about the dirty trick. So he asked a Kuhl supporter who had been at the recent Cheney fundraiser about my years of service. Here is the discussion from the piece Suarez did on Friday:
RAY SUAREZ: The battle for veterans' votes has heated up. Massa accused the Kuhl campaign of spreading rumors about the Democrat's years of service in the Navy; that, in 24 years, he should have risen to a rank higher than commander.
The Kuhl campaign denies employing any such tactic. However, the message is out in the 29th District.
Kuhl supporter Anthony Santomauro, on the way home from the Cheney fundraiser, stopped to grab dinner to-go at the fish fry at the American Legion Hall in Canandaigua. Santomauro answered a question about the importance of Massa's military experience.
DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO, Kuhl Supporter: What position did he have in Navy?
RAY SUAREZ: He retired as a commander.
DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: How many years was he in?
RAY SUAREZ: Twenty four, but I'm not sure all of that was active duty.
DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: Twenty four years in the Navy, what would you expect to get rank to?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, they say he would have made captain, except he took a medical -- he retired...
DR. ANTHONY SANTOMAURO: I'll leave it at that. I think you see where I'm coming from.
"The Kuhl campaign denies employing any such tactic. However, the message is out in the 29th District." I think this is as close to calling Kuhl a liar as Suarez could get under the circumstances. Suarez also included a quote from me about how my years wearing a uniform compare with Kuhl:
ERIC MASSA: I will go anywhere in the eight counties of the 29th Congressional District and lay my uniform with its 28 personal military decorations on any table next to any uniform he has ever worn, and there will only be one set of stripes on that table. I will no longer stand and tolerate any individual who has never worn a military uniform swift-boating any veteran. That ends today!
My Service Record
I have released my service record so it is now a matter of public record. This includes detailed fitness reports spanning my 24-year career. Throughout these files, there are numerous commendations, compliments, and recommendations for early promotion. One commanding officer wrote "I could turn the ship over to him tomorrow." At the time when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was serving in a highly prestigious and exceptionally demanding position as an aide to the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Forces in Europe, Four-Star General Wesley K. Clark. Prior to my medically-determined retirement, General Clark, whose high standards are also a matter of public record, had recommended that I be promoted and appointed to command a front line combat ship.
More Dirty Tricks from Kuhl
My opponent has also engaged in dirty pushpolling as discussed here. Here are some of the pushpoll questions:
"If you knew Eric Massa was against secure borders for our nation, would you still support him?". "If you learned Eric Massa was an ultra-radical pro-abortionist, would that change your opinion of him?"
This is the same pattern of denied smears and dirty mudslinging that defined the last election in the 29th Congressional district. I refuse to engage in dirty politics or tolerate those who do. I am fighting to bring a higher standard of leadership to Congress that works to solve the real problems that every working family in our community faces, not perpetuate behind the scenes secret smear campaigns orchestrated by my opponent. We all heard last month that Republicans were planning to use smear campaigns to try and turn back the Democratic tide. Given the events of the last week and the sudden resignation of a GOP Congressmen and revelations about George Allen, Bob Corker and others, the old saying that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones seems appropriate.
It's All about Leadership. Swiftboating and Calling for Torture Is Not Leadership.
The very fact that Republicans are resorting to swiftboating and smear campaigns to try and win elections shows that they have nothing of their own, no real leadership, to offer the American people. The lack of real leadership was also apparent this past week in the torture discussion by President Bush and the Republican-controlled congress. We can't torture our way out of the messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. A big part of the reason Iraq has gone so poorly is that Secretary Rumsfeld turned to torture when he should have been turning to proven counter-insurgency techniques. Newsweek long ago identified Rumsfeld as the origin of advanced torture techniques in Iraq (link):
While the interrogators at Gitmo were refining their techniques, by the summer of 2003 the "postwar" insurgency in Iraq was raging. Rumsfeld was getting impatient about the poor quality of the intelligence coming out of there. He wanted to know: Where was Saddam? Where were the WMD? Most immediately: Why weren't U.S. troops catching or forestalling the gangs planting improvised explosive devices by the roads? Rumsfeld pointed out that Gitmo was producing good intel. So he directed Steve Cambone, his under secretary for intelligence, to send Gitmo commandant Miller to Iraq to improve what they were doing out there.
I think time has borne out that the intel they got from torture at Gitmo wasn't as spectacular as Rumsfeld thought it was, but that's a whole other discussion. The important thing is to compare the above paragraph, and its timeline, with this from the Amazon page for the Thomas Ricks' book Fiasco:
Ricks: The U.S. military that went into Iraq in 2003 was the best military in the world for fighting another military. But it was woefully unprepared for the task at hand. For example, U.S. military culture believes in bringing overwhelming force to bear. Yet classic counterinsurgency doctrine calls for using only the minimal amount of force necessary to get the job done. U.S. soldiers and their commanders, untrained and unschooled in the difficult art of counterinsurgency, tended to improvise. So in the summer of 2003, some soldiers in Baghdad decided that the best way to deter looters was to make them cry--and they sometimes did this by threatening to shoot the children of looters, and even conducting mock executions.
More broadly, the Army in the fall of 2003 fell back on what it knew how to do, which was conduct large-scale "cordon-and-sweep" operations. These missions scarfed up thousands of Iraqis, most of them fence-sitting neutrals, and detained them. U.S. military intelligence officials later concluded that 85% of those detained were of no intelligence value. The detention experience frequently was humiliating for Iraqis, a violation of another key counterinsurgency principle: Treat your prisoners well. (Your readers who want to know more about this should read a terrific little book by David Galula titled Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.)
If we had used sound counterinsurgency techniques instead of resorting to torture, Iraq probably wouldn't have become as big of a mess as it is now. Rumsfeld's lack of proper leadership is directly responsible for the poor results we see today in Iraq. Torture didn't work before and it won't work now. What we need is less torture and more leadership.
Protecting Child Predators is Not Leadership
Also, good leadership would make every move to protect our children from sexual predators. As the father of two children, I am especially angry about the lack of leadership displayed by Republicans in the House. Protecting our children should be more important than playing politics. Period.
We Need the Experience of Veterans in Washington
We also need more experienced military people in Congress to provide leadership at this crucial point in our history. Yesterday I attended a huge rally supporting Congressman John Murtha. As a reward for standing up to President Bush on Iraq, Congressman Murtha has been swiftboated himself and has been threatened with more swiftboating in October. (link) That was a big part of why we had the rally yesterday. As I told the crowd in Johnstown yesterday, "An attack on one veteran is an attack on all our veterans. I will not stand by quietly and allow this slander to go unanswered. When a member of Congress who has never worn a uniform calls Jack Murtha a coward, I'll walk to Johnstown to stand with him and support his distinguished career. "
My point is that Congressman Murtha's time in uniform enabled him to understand the issues in a way that non-Veterans could not. That's why he has stood up to President Bush and Karl Rove so forcefully. My experience as a Veteran is something my opponent cannot compete with. And by attacking my service record, he is creating tension between himself and the Veterans Community. And this tension between Randy Kuhl and our military veterans is nothing new.
Drawing on experience from my time in uniform was a big part of the Newshour piece too. Suarez followed my discussion of applying lessons learned from the successful (For more on that success, see McJoan's piece Greeted as Liberators. Our work actually resulted in hearts and flowers and I am proud of what we accomplished.) work in Bosnia and Kosovo with Kuhl simply dismissing the idea of semi-autonomous regions because an unnamed Iraqi interior ministry official said it wouldn't work in Iraq (link):
RAY SUAREZ: Massa says, in order for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq, the warring factions must be separated, as they were in Bosnia in the late 1990s. Iraq, he believes, must be split into three semiautonomous regions to keep the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other.
That plan would backfire, according to Randy Kuhl. He said he discussed that option with an Iraqi interior ministry official during his visit.
REP. RANDY KUHL: He said that there's no way that they could do that from a practical standpoint. It just wouldn't work out. And so it's just not even an option to them.
And they are working toward a unified national government with inclusion of all the various sectarian groups. So I don't see any proposals at this point. I mean, that would just lead to people fighting over what's the territory they get, and on, and on, and on.I see that as totally disruptive and not a responsible plan.
Creating semi-autonomous regions would be totally disruptive? I had to laugh when I saw that quote. Only someone as divorced from reality on Iraq as Kuhl, like his friends in the White House, would think that Iraq isn't already totally disrupted. It will take strong measures to put it back together. And continuous denial won't make the problems go away. Suarez also pointed out that Kuhl tries to have it both ways. Even though he supports the war in Iraq to the point of making ludicrous denials of reality, Kuhl also tries to escape responsibility by saying he didn't vote for the war. Either he supports the war or he doesn't. He can't choose both.
Where We Stand in NY-29
Last week I mentioned our new poll and discussed it some. (link) We got the official report from the polling agency this week. DavidNYC discussed it over at Swingstate Project. We are in a statistical dead heat with Randy Kuhl. A PDF of the results is here. The bottom line is that if we can get our name recognition up we will win. We have been doing canvassing and could use volunteers to help with that and other tasks that you can sign up for at our online volunteer center here.
I want to thank all of you who have donated in the end of the quarter push that has been going on. It is very impressive that the Act Blue donation page with all the candidates is getting so close to $1 million dollars total. And the number of donations is equally impressive. Like many other Democratic campaigns, we need as much as we can get because we can win if we have enough money to compete. Our Act Blue link is here. Thanks for all the support you have given already.
In conclusion, swiftboating is a sure sign of a lack of leadership. Calling for torture instead of developing realistic exit plans is another example of a lack of leadership. No to swiftboating. No to torture. Yes to better leadership.
I will close today with this quote from the Suarez piece:
ERIC MASSA: And stop calling us cowards, stop calling us "cut and run" Democrats. We bring the real experience necessary to bring our troops home, safe and sound and, furthermore, to defend our families, our communities, this district, our state, and this nation from attacks by terrorists. We need that leadership in Washington now more than ever, period.