For any politician facing a political controversy, there's one sure sign of trouble: the loss of political allies. Most political figures are accustomed to criticism from the other side of the aisle, and they expect scrutiny from journalists, but when members of their own party start turning on them, it's a real problem.
Which brings us back to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who boasted last week
that he's urged active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, in order to undermine the Obama administration.
The Colorado Springs' newspaper, The Gazette
, reports today
that Lamborn is now facing rebukes from two high-profile Republicans from Colorado's congressional delegation.
On Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, tweeted a link to a story about Lamborn's comments and said, "As a Marine and combat veteran, I know to keep my politics off the battlefield." And when asked about Lamborn's statement, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said: "There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform."
To be sure, these aren't sweeping condemnations, but let's not overlook the context: with 35 days to go before Election Day, Coffman is in the middle of one of the nation's most competitive U.S. House races, while Gardner is running in one of the nation's most competitive U.S. Senate races. They're both Republicans, but neither one of these congressmen are prepared to offer even a halfhearted defense for Lamborn's controversial remarks.
Coffman and Gardner could have phrased this any number of ways to try and extend support to their GOP ally, but they chose to rebuke him instead. And while Gardner's comments came in response to a reporter's question, note that Coffman's admonition was unprompted -- he just wanted the public to know what Lamborn did was wrong.
How long until House Republican leaders are pressured to weigh in, too? For that matter, how long until House Democrats start pushing for Lamborn's removal from the House Armed Services Committee?
This doesn't appear to be going away. Newsweek
's Kurt Eichenwald published an item
yesterday that didn't hold back the emotional outrage.
Congressman Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, is an un-American demagogue, willing to sabotage this country for his own grandstanding narcissism. If his words are to be believed, this brigadier blowhard is thoroughly unfit for public office and instead should be rotting in jail on charges of treason. [...] Lamborn is the latest type of political muck America needs to scrape off the bottom of its national shoe: an officeholder so absorbed with his hatred of the opposing party that he is willing to do anything, no matter how much it damages our national security and the underpinnings of our democracy, if it will win him some applause and maybe a couple of votes.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, has also picked up on the controversy, and quoted
a Lamborn aide saying yesterday that the congressman "was referencing prior occasions, such as the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' policy or budget cuts."
The problem with the defense is that it's still literally unbelievable. As we discussed
yesterday, a voter made some bizarre anti-Obama comments at a local event, while urging the congressman to "support the generals and the troops." The congressman replied, "[L]et me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, 'Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let's have a resignation. You know, let's have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.'"
All of this was in present tense. For that matter, the U.S. was still at war in 2010 (during the debate over DADT repeal) and in 2013 (during the debate over sequestration), so it's not as if the defense is especially compelling anyway -- for a congressman to push for wartime resignations to undermine U.S. policy is problematic no matter when it happens.
And so the questions for the Republican congressman remain the same: When you said "a lot of us" are pushing generals to resign, who else is involved in this effort? Which generals have you talked to "behind the scenes"? Why would it help U.S. interests for generals to resign during a war? Exactly how many times did you talk to the generals about this, and when was the last conversation?
The questions for House Republican leaders are just as straightforward: Doug Lamborn bragged publicly about basically trying to incite mutiny among America's generals during war time. Is that acceptable behavior?