MSNBC today featured U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor’s race to hold onto his seat against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. He gave Republicans the sound bite they wanted, though they’ve massaged it to make Pryor look like he’s disrespectful of the military.
Pryor was asked about Cotton’s military service. He said he valued it and service by anybody. Does it qualify Cotton to serve in the Senate? Pryor made the fair point that military service isn’t qualification alone for Senate service. He said Cotton “gives off” a sense of entitlement in which he seems to say he should be elected simply because he served in the military. Pryor said Cotton seemed to be saying: “I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.” I think that’s a fair assessment of the Cotton ad strategy, along with invoking Barack Obama’s name several hundred times a day.
Social media is exploding with what Cotton backers are interpreting as disrespect for the military. They are saying Pryor said being in the military wasn’t a qualification. That’s not really what he said.
I don’t think military service is a disqualifier any more than Pryor does. It’s a plus in weighing military issues, just as anyone with experience in a public policy field — education, energy, finance, law — brings pluses to the job. But there’s also this: I’m not so sanguine about a supporter of one misbegotten war (Iraq) and another one (Afghanistan) not always well-handled and someone who’s demonstrated eager hawkishness from Iran to Syrian to Ukraine
Bottom line: MSNBC’s piece was a love letter to Cotton and his family. And Pryor took another setback, even though a co-host of the show closed the piece (not the edited version being circulated by Republicans) by saying Pryor was NOT saying military service wasn’t a qualification, just that it was not the ONLY qualification that mattered.
PS — Republicans held a news conference to highlight Pryor’s “attack” on Cotton’s military record. Watch the video. See if you can find such. Doesn’t matter, of course.GOP Chairman Doyle Webb cut it short when reporters began asking about Tom Cotton’s similar critical remarks on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense secretary. Cotton said he appreciated Hagel’s service, but it alone wasn’t a qualification and his record should be examined. Webb said THAT was different and cut off questionings without explaining how it was different.