Running Away from Veterans … Literally

by Karen St. John

Let’s cut to the chase.

There is an interesting race going on in New York’s 29th district. The incumbent Republican, Randy Kuhl, grew up working on farms and in construction, achieving a B.S. in civil engineering. A career politician, he served in the New York State Assembly and State Senate before being elected U.S. Representative in 2004. Randy Kuhl is not a veteran. However, he claims to be adamant in his support of veterans.

His campaign web site offers this quote: “Support for our veterans must always be an American issue and never a partisan issue as our nation’s veterans are defending each one of our rights as American citizens. We must do what is best for veterans, which means providing full funding, ensuring that they have access to the best healthcare and education opportunities, and reducing the cumbersome burdens they endure to get their deserved benefits. These are our nation’s heroes and we must never let our fellow Americans forget their bravery or their sacrifice.”

In 2007 – 2008, Kuhl received an A rating form the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. This is a campaign year, however. And you know me. Dig a little deeper is my middle name.

So let’s just see how has Kuhl done since 2004?

In 2005, the Disabled American Veterans rated Kuhl 0%.

In 2006, The Retired Enlisted Association gave him a 50%, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America a D, and the Disabled American Veterans a 66%.

Kuhl’s voting record is not so hot, either.

Randy Kuhl voted against H Con Res 312: Concurrent Budget Resolution that would allow $581.64 billion for veterans benefits and services, and he voted against H R 2642: G.I. Bill Expansion and Other Domestic Provisions.

The Internet is amazing, with videos available for viewing on just about anybody. Congressman Randy Kuhl has been a star in his share of YouTube classics. I zeroed in on two of Kuhl’s appearances before veterans.

In this first one, a WW II veteran accuses Kuhl of being “a puppet to a man (Bush) misinformed, ill-advised and arrogant.” When Kuhl remains silent about going up against Bush’s policies, the veteran suggests that Kuhl “act like a (expletive) man and tell Bush to buzz off.”

This second video shows Kuhl at a podium in a hall addressing veterans. At the Q & A as veterans raise their hands with questions, Kuhl announces he’ll take questions from the media first. When he receives none, the veterans speak up, trying to get called on so they could ask him a question. Instead, Kuhl hurriedly mumbles a “thank you” and flees the room without answering any of the veterans’ questions.

Kuhl’s behavior in real life doesn’t jive with his flowery quote about veterans now, does it?

Neither does his voting record of siding with the Bush administration almost 88% of the time. With the latest approval poll of September 2008 putting Bush at 19%, elected members of his own party have to verbally distance themselves from him if they want any chance to retain their seats in the election! And that is what Kuhl is doing – running away. He suddenly wants to impress his constituents into revising history. He wants them to think he has not been, is not and will not ever be a supporter of Bush policies.

Along comes Randy Kuhl’s challenger, Retired Navy Commander Eric Massa.

Massa graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland as a commissioned naval officer. He spent 24 years in service, including being deployed off the coast of Beruit, to the Middle East during the Iraq invasion of Kuwait and throughout the opening of Desert Storm. Massa also served as Special Assistant to General Wes Clark, both in Panama and again when Clark became Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces. Massa ended his career when he was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which he eventually beat. He accepted a staff position on the House Armed Services Committee, and was vocal in his criticism of how poorly veterans were treated.

Two years ago, Massa lost a squeaker to Kuhl 51% to 49% despite outspending him by more than $26,000. This year, in their re-match, the race is rated as “toss up”, “no clear favorite” or “tilt Democratic” by the pundits. Massa is a newcomer to the political scene so has not yet earned any group’s ratings. But he has his military service and a two-page veterans plan on his web site and blogs about veterans’ issues, emphasizing funding for veterans’ healthcare and full funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Especially pleasing is Massa’s clarification on what supporting the troops means to him. He states, “If you really want to support the troops you have to do more than just put a magnetic sticker on your vehicle. Among other things, it means that you stand up for both our troops in the field and for ongoing care for our veterans at home. And at a time when we have tens of thousands of new disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, that latter part is especially important.”

Massa has the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee, Vote Vets, and the support of Retired General Wes Clark, who has multiple awards to his credit, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I venture to guess that New York’s 29th District constituents, especially veterans, are giving a long, lingering look at Kuhl’s opponent, Retired Naval Commander Eric Massa.

As for Kuhl, well, my grandmother had a saying that might describe Representative Kuhl’s situation perfectly: “The chickens are coming home to roost.”

My grandmother knew that eventually, you have to pay a price for your choices. A loss to Eric Massa, a seasoned military veteran, may just be Kuhl’s fee for siding with Bush once too often and not near enough times with our nation’s heroes – our veterans.

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2 Responses to “Running Away from Veterans … Literally”

  1. character shows when you look at the way someone answers, or in this case doesn’t answer, legitimate questions at a public forum. 

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