August 24, 2004
TOM HARKIN IS SLAMMED IN THE DES MOINES REGISTER by columnist David Yepsen, who notes that Harkin, among other things:
• Hurt Iowa. The remark will make it even more difficult for the senator to work with Republicans. Even if Bush and Cheney lose, he will still have GOP senators to deal with. And who in any Bush administration is going to help Harkin obtain grants or programs that benefit Iowa? He already has trouble doing that.
• Hurt himself. Harkin doesn't have to seek re-election until 2008, so perhaps he figures everyone will have forgotten about this remark by then. Not so. The comment has moved the political seismograph more than anything else he's ever said. Republicans won't forget it, and Harkin has assured himself that his foes will come at him harder than ever. His military record - including whether he hyped his own service as a Navy pilot - will again be an issue.
• Is inconsistent. Did the senator ever call Bill Clinton a "coward" because he used deferments to avoid service in Vietnam? No. While Harkin had little time for Clinton in their 1992 presidential campaign, he never carried his words this far. Did Harkin ever call Howard Dean a "coward" for doing much the same thing as Cheney? No. Harkin endorsed him for the presidency. John Edwards didn't enlist. Neither did Tom Vilsack.