The names Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer don't immediately convey the message "Support our troops." Yet somehow these leftist Democrats and other questionable characters made it onto the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee's (VFW-PAC) 2010 list of election endorsements. In response to the scandal, VFW national Commander Richard L. Eubank sacked the entire PAC board.
In a letter to VFW members issued Monday, Mr. Eubank, a former Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran, said, "It is now evident to most of the VFW leadership, both National and especially the departments, that the VFW has been subjected to extreme negative publicity throughout the nation, and the recent endorsement decisions have, in fact, harmed the VFW's reputation and future ability to fulfill our mission." He asked for the PAC to be dissolved and for the VFW's national council to vote "no confidence" in the PAC's actions.
Jim Hanson, a Special Forces veteran whose Blackfive blog has been following the issue closely, says the problem was a "lack of oversight." The PAC is a quasi-independent entity nominally separate from the VFW but nevertheless purportedly bound to act in the interests of the membership. When the controversial endorsement list came to the attention of the leadership, "They did what they were supposed to do, they shut it down." The VFW-PAC board stood by its recommendations as somehow being in the best interests of veterans, but "that was just farcical," Mr. Hanson told The Washington Times.
In general, the VFW-PAC endorsements bucked the robust "throw the bums out" spirit of our age. Incumbents on the list with questionable records of supporting the troops include Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, Rep. Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat. No Republican challengers of any kind were endorsed in the states of Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico or Vermont.
The PAC board made some egregious oversights. It endorsed incumbent Democrat Ron Klein for Florida's 22nd district over Iraq war veteran and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, who's third-generation military. Incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre was chosen over former Marine and active VFW member Ilario Pantano for North Carolina's 7th district. In North Carolina's 11th district, the PAC gave the nod to Democratic congressman and failed Washington Redskin Heath Shuler rather than to challenger Jeff Miller, one of the principal organizers of the Honor Flights network, which has brought more than 35,000 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Washington at no cost to visit the national memorials erected in their honor. It's difficult to see how passing over all of these men advances the VFW's mission or the interests of veterans in general.
Mr. Hanson fears the now-damaged VFW-PAC endorsement list will give valuable and unearned political capital to ultra-liberal incumbents in tight races who are desperate to gain traction with the center. "Barbara Boxer, for God's sake?" he said. "Alan Grayson? Sheila Jackson Lee? I don't know how anyone could consider these people pro-veteran." Endorsements may now devolve to the grass roots, where local VFW chapters can choose the best people to represent their communities rather than leaving picks to a centralized PAC making offensively flawed decisions.
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