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Monday, December 09, 2019

Veterans
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We can well understand Joe Kent's grief over the death of his wife. Shannon was a Navy cryptologic technician who tragically died in a suicide bombing in Syria.

But as a candidate for a House seat in Washington state, Kent is using his loss as some strange kind of cover for spreading the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In doing so, the CIA paramilitary officer is simultaneously betraying his country and disrespecting his late wife's courage and sacrifice.

"She was there," Kent complains, "because unelected bureaucrats decided to slow-roll" Donald Trump's withdrawal orders.

Wrong and wrong. Shannon was there because she was a soldier who signed up for a dangerous mission. As president, Trump was commander in chief. He could have insisted that his orders were followed — though, thankfully, they were not. An immediate withdrawal would have been catastrophic, according to Trump's own Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

Veterans used to be widely regarded as model candidates for their tendency toward bipartisanship and preference for just getting things done. Some still are. But there's now a breed of veteran candidate who has gone beyond a healthy skepticism of military interventions and sees himself as a foot soldier in the far right's efforts to overthrow the democracy.

Like Kent, they wallow in self-dramatization. Lost in the discussion is that people who join the military or security services do so voluntarily. There is no draft. They serve the country for a variety of reasons, one being patriotism.

A very close relative of mine worked for the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He suffered greatly after losing several close friends in the 2009 suicide bombing attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan. But he knew why they — and he — were there.

A former Navy SEAL who saw five deployments, Eli Crane is the real thing as a brave warrior. But now running for the House seat in Arizona, he's pushing the tawdry lie that Trump won the 2020 election.

Arizona is the state that brought us Sen. John McCain, an exemplary conservative who had undergone years of torture as a prisoner in North Vietnam. To this day, I will not understand the far right's continued worship of Trump after Captain Bone Spurs attacked McCain's heroism, famously saying, "I like people who weren't captured."

Don Bolduc is a retired brigadier general vying for the Senate seat in New Hampshire held by Maggie Hassan. He signed a letter early on asserting that Trump had won the election. Then, 36 hours after winning the primary, he told Fox News that "the election was not stolen."

In addition to being a political coward, Bolduc is nuts. Yes, he did call New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu a "Chinese-communist sympathizer."

Here are some theories on how these candidates got to their crazy place: The Trumpian right surrounds them with what they perceive as love. They may be a Rambo outside but snowflake inside who melts at the thought that their side lost an election. Some may not be bright, while others have no trouble selling their souls for pats on the head.

And they take a most unsavory pleasure in turning on generals deemed insufficiently servile to Trump. Kent has called for criminal charges against Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. (As bonus freakiness, he wants Dr. Anthony Fauci charged with murder over the "scam that is COVID" and calls the vaccine a form of "experimental gene therapy.")

OK. Any liar or head case who would discard the people's vote in service to an authoritarian — or anything else — qualifies for a dishonorable discharge from consideration for elected office. It's time for the voters to intervene.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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Mehmet Oz

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Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, gave a confusing response about veterans' health care during an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station last week.

The station 90.5 WESA asked Oz about the PACT Act, which expands health care coverage for veterans exposed to toxins in the course of their service. The interview took place a few hours before recalcitrant Senate Republicans finally agreed to support the legislation.

Oz called for the bill's passage and said he believed that veterans should be enrolled in the same insurance system that members of Congress receive from the Affordable Care Act's private health insurance exchanges.

"I actually think they should get the same insurance I get if I'm serving in the U.S. Senate," Oz said. "They've done everything you could ask an American to do, and they've already paid their fee and they're not getting what's deserved of them — in this case, health care access."

"These folks risked their lives," he added.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration provides health care coverage to U.S. military veterans and provides free treatment for all service-related injuries — a benefit exclusive to veterans' health care.

By contrast, senators receive health care coverage through the private health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

While VA hospitals have come under fire in the past for long wait times, studies have found that the public health care system is superior or equal to privately run hospitals on measures of patient satisfaction and quality of care.

Oz's apparent confusion about how the VA works is particularly glaring because he trained to become a medical doctor at Philadelphia's own VA Medical Center.

And his support for Senate health insurance is particularly odd given the changing stances he's taken on Obamacare, which set up the exchanges that senators use to receive health care.

Although Oz endorsed Obamacare in a 2010 video he appeared in for the health care advocacy group The California Endowment, his campaign recently walked back his support for President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Brittany Yanick, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign, told CNN that he "does not support a big government takeover of the health insurance industry" and "would not have voted for Obamacare."

In a 2016 interview with Fox Business, Oz called Obamacare "a very brave effort to include more Americans in the health care system" but said that "the problem with it though is that there was compromise required to get it passed, which limited its ability to address the quality of care and more importantly the cost of care."

The Oz campaign did not return a request for comment.

Oz, who moved back to Pennsylvania in 2020 after living in New Jersey for 30 years, has tried to mold his experience as a physician and reality television star into a compelling campaign message. He claims to have "scars" from taking on the pharmaceutical industry, and his campaign website lists health care as one of the core planks of his pitch to voters.

But Oz, whose net worth is north of $100 million, is heavily invested in Big Pharma companies, according to financial disclosure documents. Those companies include Johnson & Johnson, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and PanTheryx, a biotechnology company on whose board he sits.

His campaign also took $5,800 in donations from Nostrum Pharmaceuticals Founder and President Nirmal Mulye, who quadrupled the price of an essential antibiotic — a move which he described as a "moral imperative."

"I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can ... to sell the product for the highest price," Mulye told the Financial Times in 2018.

Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz during the Republican primary, also has a checkered history on veterans' health care. In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which some critics say has led to worse health outcomes and more expensive care for veterans.

Oz is running against Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, for the state's Senate seat left open by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). A recent Fox News poll has Fetterman leading Oz 47% to 36% among registered voters.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.