State Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane did have a point beneath the profanity directed at a blogger last week. One that maybe needs to be F-Bombed across the American landscape: "We're in a war without end. And we don't seem to care," Baumgartner says.
Senator F-Bomb wasn’t nice. He didn’t keep it classy.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people who strongly object to my use of profanity to make my point,” he concedes.
What he was, though, was right.
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane wasn’t so senatorial last week when he told a Seattle politics blogger to “go (bleep) yourself.”
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But the little-known Baumgartner — who is in one of those lost-cause challenges for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Democrat Maria Cantwell — did have a point beneath the profanity. One that maybe needs to be F-Bombed across the American landscape.
Which is: “We’re in a war without end. And we don’t seem to care,” Baumgartner says.
What hacked Baumgartner off, specifically, was what he perceived to be a jokey tone on the part of his interviewer, Josh Feit of the Seattle website Publicola.
But mostly it was a sense he was being asked about yet another controversy of the week, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s medieval comments about rape. While no one talks about the outrage of the decade.
“A trillion dollars spent, 2,000 American lives lost — Afghanistan is the longest war in American history,” Baumgartner says. “But you don’t hear a word about it.”
That can hardly be heaped on that one reporter. Still, when news arrived that same day that a Navy SEAL friend of Baumgartner’s had just been killed in Afghanistan — Baumgartner worked as a State Department adviser in both Iraq and Afghanistan — he uncorked at Feit in an email.
He sent a photo of himself and the SEAL, Pat Feeks, along with that coarse suggestion.
“F-Bomb Roils Otherwise Sleepy Washington Senate Race,” was the headline aftermath at National Journal, a magazine for political insiders in Washington, D.C.
Not really. When it comes to the war — and our senate race — we’re slumbering soundly as ever, thanks.
It’s not that war trumps all else. Abortion surely matters, and for the record Baumgartner is opposed to abortion rights in almost all cases, including when a woman is raped.
But Baumgartner is right that we’re waging a war while pretending we’re not. That is a big bleeping deal.
It isn’t treated that way. Baumgartner, who advocates drawing out the troops now, flew to Tampa Saturday for the Republican National Convention. I asked how much he expected to hear there about the war in Afghanistan.
“Close to zero,” he said.
Same for the Democratic convention, probably. Politicians on both sides, including Cantwell, voted to start the war and also to back President Obama’s huge troop surge. To date that surge has cost a thousand U.S. lives and hasn’t appeared to work.
“Is anybody going to be held accountable for that? To even be asked about it?” Baumgartner said. “It’s a bipartisan failure. So both sides want this issue to just fade away.”
Which is what it’s doing. Eleven years in, we still have 84,000 troops in Afghanistan. We’re getting more stuck, with the latest craziness being that our Afghan allies increasingly are the ones shooting at us.
Yet most of us still haven’t been asked to lift a finger. Not even to pay for it (it’s all going on the national credit card).
The week before Baumgartner’s eruption, the guy who is in charge of the war, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, apparently felt so unnerved by the sounds of silence that he held an unusual news conference, to say this:
“I realize that there are a lot of other things going on around this country that can draw our attention, from the Olympics, to political campaigns to droughts. … So … I thought it was important to remind the American people that there is a war going on.”
Nobody listened. Maybe because that was delivered with all the urgency of an official reminding us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors.
Seriously, we’re numb out here. Maybe next time he should drop some F-bombs into it.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.