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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

BOSTON — Seth Moulton, an Iraq veteran and Democratic congressional candidate on Massachusetts’ North Shore, has done something with little precedent in political campaigning: He was caught underplaying his war record.

You read that right: An investigation by The Boston Globe found that unlike politicians who go to great lengths to puff up their military backgrounds, Moulton, as the paper’s Walter Robinson wrote, “chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.”

It took Robinson’s reporting to discover that Moulton had won the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor during the battles for control of Najaf and Nasiriyah.

In a telephone interview, Moulton said his reluctance reflected a “healthy disrespect” among his comrades-in-arms for boasting about citations.

“The relative few of us who really were on the front lines don’t like to talk about it and don’t like to brag about it,” he said. “I saw a lot of heroic kids who were on the front lines … and didn’t get the recognition they deserved.”

Moulton’s story is a refreshing change of pace in a midterm election campaign short on displays of either courage or reticence. Voters are unhappy with both parties and there is no driving issue, so a play-all-the-angles approach that takes whatever story is dominating the news cycle and tries to turn it into a wedge.

Nowhere has this pattern been clearer than in the rise of public worries about Ebola and the effort by Republicans to turn fear into a closing argument.

It is normal for the party that doesn’t control the White House to be critical of how the incumbent has handled a crisis. And President Obama himself, according to The New York Times, was frustrated with aspects of the government’s handling of the episode, one reason he called on Ron Klain, the Washington veteran, to coordinate the response.

But it’s something else again to stoke alarm and to set up an unrealistic policy demand as a test of “toughness.” (Yes, those quotation marks are intended to convey the cynicism involved.) Thus did many Republicans call for a travel ban from the countries affected by Ebola, even though there are no direct flights from them to the United States. This raised the prospect of grounding connecting flights from European cities, and the administration argued that the ban would encourage people to lie about their travel history, making screening for the disease much harder.

Now, Republicans have quietly conceded how problematic a travel ban would be. So they are rallying to a new tough-sounding backup position, calling for a suspension of visas for travelers from the affected countries. Trying to answer symbolic politics with practical measures, the administration on Tuesday announced that travelers from Ebola-zone countries would be required to enter the United States through one of five airports equipped for screening.

To examine the way all this has played out in the congressional contest between Moulton and Republican Rich Tisei is to see how last-minute campaign pressures can push even independent-minded candidates to find ways of gaining a slight edge or avoiding political damage.

Tisei is one of the few socially moderate Republicans on the ballot this fall. Openly gay, Tisei got married in the summer of 2013, and boycotted the state Republican convention this year to protest the party’s conservative platform. Yet like other Republicans, he jumped on the idea of “banning flights” from countries where the disease is raging and of “quarantining people before they come into the country.”

For his part, Moulton, after initially resisting the flight ban, sought to find middle ground by declaring that “until we can get people properly screened, we may need to shut those flights down.” But in the interview, he reiterated his view that “we can’t pretend that we’re going to win this fight simply by shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world.” He also endorsed Obama’s latest move on screening. And on Wednesday, Tisei’s spokesman, Charlie Szold, said his candidate did not want a flight ban to force any interruption of aid to the affected countries to combat the disease.

One would like to hope that Ebola posturing will not be decisive in either the Moulton-Tisei race or in the larger campaign. There are signs that the issue is fading as reality catches up with the pandering. In the meantime, Moulton, who knows what courage means, could usefully bring a GI’s “healthy disrespect” to the ways our country’s politics makes problem-solving harder.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne.

Screenshot: Seth Moulton and Richard Tisei debate on WBZ (Seth Moulton/YouTube)

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  • Dominick Vila

    The contrast between the reaction of people in countries like Nigeria, which had about a dozen Ebola cases and now considers itself free of the Ebola virus; Spain where a missionary trying to help victims in Guinea contracted the virus and died, and two of the Spanish nurses that treated him contracted the virus, and now considers itself Ebola-free, and the way we are reacting to the death of a Liberian immigrant in Dallas, and a couple of medical personnel contracting the virus and recovering, is nothing short of embarrassing.
    The GOP is using this issue to score political points because they have nothing else to run on. The record is dismal and there vision is non-existent. Consequently, they have no choice but to engage in the lowest form of politics to remain viable even though, doing so embarrasses them and their supporters.
    Honestly, I doubt Ebola will have an impact on the outcome of this midterm election. The truth is that the demonization campaign that began the day after President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, and the constant negative attacks against the ACA, they have managed to destroy President Obama’s record of accomplishments and his persona. Under handed tactics are common place in politics, and the GOP has brought that to an art form. Consider their latest decision on the economy and job creation, after after months of denying and ridiculing the economic recovery and job creation that should be evident to everyone, they decided to embrace it and make it their own. In Florida, a crooked Republican governor is attacking his opponent by reminding people that Florida lost jobs when the Great Recession began while Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate who was then a Republican governor was in office, and that thanks to the stewardship and abilities of Republican Governor Rick Scott, Florida has created 700,000 jobs during his tenure. No mention of the usual “those are just low paying, part time, jobs, or the economy is struggling to stay afloat”. It is now all peachy thanks to the Republicans who obstructed every effort to stimulate the economy! The worst part is that many Floridians believe it!!! The GOP is lousy at governance, but when it comes to campaigning, they are second to none.

    • FT66

      Dominick, you have mentioned about constant negative attacks they had about ACA. Their Party Leader promised to tattoo on their faces “OBAMACARE” and campaign against it during these mid-term campaigns. Has anyone seen any????

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Red state politicians always go for the jugular before any R&D of any issue this president proposes. It’s the nature of their “culture” to stand against before they ever stand “with.”

  • FT66

    Something which is always clicking my mind is putting laws on some issues of how we should live and forget other issues. There is law on no stealing, no corruption, no killing etc. etc. and yet there is no law on LYING. People are lying intentionally every day which shows up (especially politicians), and no one takes any action against them. Here is my question: “Have we accepted lies as normal way of living especially coming from those who are seeking to serve the public”?

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      Actually, there are laws for laying. Unfortunately, there’s also a loophole in libel and slander laws. The reality is that most Americans don’t view lying as consequential. So, when outright lies are published by covetous media titans or by politicians, Americans look the other other words, enable liars to continue to lie.

      There was a time when lying was a “no no” and a matter of personal conscience. The lack of any conscience has been seriously “run through” by those for whom the most irresponsible behavior is attributed.

      You can’t lie and still be “responsible.” It’s one or the other. Until Americans return to demanding responsible truthfulness, lying will continue.

      • FT66

        It is quite astonishing. We teach our kids from the very young age, that stealing and lying is a BIG SIN. We do so to prepare them to live a life where those things are not allowed at all to exisist. Does it really make any sense to allow grown ups misbehave while the young ones got disciplined when they do so?

        • Eleanore Whitaker

          I worked with thousands of kids over a 33 year period of time. If I learned anything about children, it’s this: Children have photographic memories of everything their parents say and do.

          Too often adults use a kind of “I’m an adult. I can do what I want.” Then, they turn around and exhibit world class bad examples.

          Adults teach children by example. Often, adults think children are not constantly vigilant of how their parents, as role models, act and speak.

          Adults unwittingly teach children not only to lie but “how” to lie by simply behaving in ways that are contradictory to the parental teachings and discipline. Don’t tell a kid not to smoke, drink or irresponsibly ignore the importance of commitment. Then, do the same thing.

          • FT66

            Thanks Eleanore. Will come back to you later. I have very pressing issues to deal with today.

    • Dominick Vila

      The most fascinating part of political lies, at least for me, is the indifference of most Republicans when it comes to President Bush’s lies about the Iraqi WMD threat to our national security, and how enraged they become when they are reminded that President Obama said that all Americans could keep their insurance policies after the ACA became law, if they wished. The fact that he didn’t know that less than 1% of policy holders had substandard coverage that was inconsistent with ACA minimum requirements, and had no choice but to change their policies for better coverage to stop being a burden on society is totally unacceptable to them. Deliberately lying to justify an invasion of a foreign country that cost the lives of 4,400 young Americans, 600,000 Iraqis, forced two million Sunnis to flee their country to save their lives, destroyed what was once a prosperous country, and served as a catalyst for ISIL, makes absolutely no difference to them.

    • JPHALL

      FT66: Yes it has become the norm. Recently the courts ruled that fake military men can not be held accountable for lying about military service. So they can go to pawn shops and buy all the medals they want and wear them proudly.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    The GOP is grabbing at straws like the little boys they are. We see their tantrums all the time. These are not grown men with any level of rational mental maturity. Older Americans find them silly, petty, nitpickers who stoop as low as snakes so their ends justify their means. Is that politics? Or, tyranny?

    Remember the line from the Aesop fable, “A Tyrant will always find a premise for tyranny.”

    The GOP bulls today believe their wall of obstruction is impenetrable. Is it? Or is it more a case of the GOP bulls creating a facade behind which they can hide in order to avoid accountability?

    It won’t matter that President Obama, like Clinton, will prove to be one of US History’s best presidents. The GOP blindsides themselves with their egregious ideology to the extent that they belligerently refuse to see or hear their own errors in thought and action. Most tyrants do as well.

  • FireBaron

    If this guy had been running in Georgia, I am sure the GOP would have tried to question his loyalty, just as they did with Max Cleland – a decorated Viet Nam War Veteran and triple-amputee – because he did not support the Iraq invasion.

    • stcroixcarp

      I met Max Cleland a few years ago. I will never forget him.

      • Whatmeworry

        Typical democrat with his funding of chemtrail research. My bodily fluids are mine only

    • Whatmeworry

      HUH????? He voted for it. Thanks for the History rewrite..typical Dem

  • longtail

    Are Republicans just practicing political posturing or are they really scared?

    • stcroixcarp

      I think they are really scared. Ebola comes from Africa right? The irrational fear is that ebola is a plot by Obama to destroy their white privilege. They believe in divine retribution and they know that they are at grave risk because of their meanness.

      • longtail

        Don’t tell them that the President is a wealthy lawyer and would be the last to disturb the American status quo. Add to that that he went to private schools and colleges and you really have a crumby profile of a Kenyan Muslim terrorist.

  • Allan Richardson

    Does anyone seriously think the GOP would be screaming for banning flights if the Ebola zone consisted of France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland? Of course not! But “AFRICA” is the Heart of Darkness, right? And since we have an “African” President, this gives them an excuse to BLAME him, and by extension all persons of African descent, for this contagious disease.

    I have some news for these Afrophobes: ALL of us are of African descent. Some of our ancestors just left it sooner than others!

    • Whatmeworry

      Except that we HAVE done it in the past. If you want them to have access let them move into your house for 21 days

      • iowasteve

        That’s fine with me – I’m not intending to have a physical contact with any of them. Once again, this is NOT an airborne virus!! Don’t you people listen to anyone or read anything???? You guys need to grown up!!! You’re just lucky Reagan isn’t still in office – you think Obama isn’t doing enough – it took Reagan years before he decided that AIDS needed to be looked at.

        • Whatmeworry

          Not an airborne disease so the CDC is wrong when they say you can catch it thru a sneeze or a cough?? Carter refused to distrust AIDs it was Reagan who met the threat head on by closing bath houses and making sure gay bars were forced to tell their clientele what they are facing.
          Obama hasn’t done squat on Ebola other than to send troops who he despises to west africa

          • iowasteve

            Coughing most likely won’t spread Ebola, however, if you get sneezed ON by someone with it – there is a chance you could get it – but again, that is spread by bodily fluids (sneezing). Now, as for your completely miss informed idea of Reagan. Reagan ignored AIDS until after there were over 20,000 dead from it. So, I would say Obama has handled it better than both Reagan AND Carter! And if this is an incurable decease, then how did the nurse get over it? I think the CDC working with NIH is doing a great job under the guidance of Obama and DESPITE the do nothing GOP who cut their budget while working on this in the first place!!! Again, you guys need to start putting the blame where it actually lies.

          • Whatmeworry

            He didn’t ignore it, it was deviant behavior and not worth his time or our tax dollars. No different than ax murders, rapists or child molesters.
            Obama hasn’t done anything the response from CDC changes by the hour and the software to diagnose the disease has been available for 2+ years but the CDC and Obama wouldn’t allow hospitals to have access to it.
            And no the GOP didn’t cut their budgets, they got every penny that Barak asked for. But as usual the CDC pissed it away. They hired 1800 new worker bee’s and paid out $85M in bonuses and what did the taxpayers get for it?? Just more infections

          • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

            Dannyboy Ketter don’t have ebola, but he’s far sighted, overweight, impotent, and has arthritis.

          • iowasteve

            The budget cut was not for CDC it was for NIH who actually working on the vaccine for Ebola when they had to put it on hold due to the budget cut. Of course, republicans believe things happen with no money just because THEY beleive it doesn’t make it true. There really isn’t that much Obama can do about a virus – unless it becomes something more than a hit miss situation. This is NOT a serious large scale epidemic situation.. For christ sakes, how many people here have gotten it? And how did they get it? This has been blown out of proportion by the GOP in an effort to find SOMETHING to grasp at to win an election no matter how false the fight is. And it is also obvious that we can now treat it and cure it – it’s been done now. Taking this from an incurable killer virus to something that can be cured IS doing something, if you ask me.

          • Whatmeworry

            NIH was working on Ebola PLEEASE the private sector was developing a cure/vaccine. The NIH asked for $30B in 2013 and got $30B so $$$ isn’t the issue its how its spent and they opted to spend it on Bonuses and more people.
            Obama can’t do much about a virus other than to make sure it doesn’t come here and he’s failed miserably we are 60 days into it and EVERY day the govt guidance changes.
            Barak has been pulling all stops to win an election since 2006 if it was easier to tell the truth barak would still lie its in his genes

          • iowasteve

            The republicans DID cut the budget for the NIH but once again you make a bunch of statements without any proof. And when you have something like this, it does tend to take time to get a concrete set of standard operating procedures. Hell it too years before Reagan even acknowledged that there was an AIDs epidemic. Of course, there is no Ebola epidemic. Reagan didn’t get any kind of grief for waiting until 20,000 people died of AIDs before he even lifted a finger. I think you need to stop trying to blame everything on Obama and I think he really didn’t have to work too hard to win elections because there was really nothing ont he other side to beat. And why would he try to win an election after the last one he could enter into? More BS for the right.

          • Whatmeworry

            Sorry not according to OPM or the NIH’s own web page.
            It takes time to get a concrete set of standards? Hmmm ebola has been around for more than 20 years I guess in your mind that’s not enough time to set up parameters. What is going on in this country has NUTTING to do with the disease and prevention and everything to do with Barak being PC

          • iowasteve

            Hmm Ebola has been in the US for 20 years??? I don’t even remember hearing about this. But, if you say this is the case, then I’m really curious how the hell Obama has anything to do with it. And here with go with ACORN yet again. Let it go for once ok? What proof do you have about illegal totalling 9 million voted? Ya know, if “W” hadn’t created most of the mess we have today, then we wouldn’t be blaming him. Most of this IS HIS FAULT! Look it up! You’re still not giving much in the way of facts, only your opinions. Tell me about the 9 million illegal votes – it would be very interesting reading for sure.

          • He’s a troll. He’s just here to wind you up.

          • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

            Of course, Dan Ketter is an old forum troll, and the #1 village idiot out of Williamsburg VA. A retired desk clerk from Ford Motors, with 2.1 years of additional desk clerk duties in the air national guard.

          • Whatmeworry

            Every thing would be news to you seeing as how your reader comprehension is at a 1st grade level.
            The 9 million is your number not mine.
            Let ACORN go?? They should all be in a federal prison.
            W caused all the problems?? Seriously?? W inherited a recession from Clinton. Did you ever hear him whine and complain?/ No he manned up and took on the challenge. W inherited the results of the community reinvestment act that caused so many banks to come to the brink of disaster. Forcing banks to make loans they KNEW could never be paid back thanks to Dodd and Frank, both of which also received sweet heart loans from those same banks.
            In a poll done 3 weeks ago of Hispanics 32% of the illegals stated that they either voted in the past or were eligible to vote now. But hey you never read so I’m sure its news to you

  • Whatmeworry

    Good for him

    • Linda Rae lays mooooslems and coloreds but not her fat sweaty impotent hubby dannooo

    • They can’t make Linda Rae Ketter a beauty out of her sows ear

  • James Garner

    If Obama will lie about your healthcare and about his Uncle Omar, is there anything he won’t lie about?

  • Carole Bradshaw

    Even more lies from Obama: