News & Politics

Arizona Democratic Senate Candidate's Radical Anti-War Past Roils Race

European Council President Donald Tusk attends a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona, portrays herself as a moderate, pro-military Democrat. But in 2003, Sinema was an entirely different person.

Then, she was a radical anti-war activist who was involved in a group that posted this cartoon:

CNN broke the story, which has quickly become an issue in Sinema’s campaign against the GOP Senate nominee, Rep. Martha McSally. The Republican congresswoman is a military veteran and the first female fighter pilot in U.S. history. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

Currently one of only 18 members of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, a caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats that once boasted 54 members, Sinema’s time organizing anti-war rallies highlights how her views have shifted since the early 2000s, when she ran for state and local office as an independent affiliated with the Green Party and was viewed as one of the most progressive activists in Arizona.

“Kyrsten comes from a military family and is very proud of her record supporting Arizona’s servicemembers, veterans, and their families,” Sinema campaign spokeswoman Helen Hare said in an emailed comment to CNN’s KFile. “Attacks on Kyrsten’s respect for those who serve have already been called out as false, and Kyrsten is going to stay focused on the issues that matter most to Arizonans — like making sure Congresswoman McSally and her allies can’t roll back protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.”

Hare added that Sinema did not approve or design the flyers at the time. The campaign further noted that two of her brothers have served in the military and that one remains on active duty in the Navy.

The real issue here is: just who is Kyrsten Sinema? Radical anti-war activist who is allied with anarchists or the “moderate” pro-military member of Congress she purports to be?

She may not have designed the flyers. But Republicans at rallies that have white supremacists in attendance have been tarred for a lot less:

One flyer for the February 2003 event read: “You can help us push back U.S. terror in Iraq and the Middle East.” Above the text there was a cartoon depicting a group of protestors striving to halt the progress of three skeletons, one dressed as a soldier, another dressed in a top hat holding a dollar bill and another dressed in a suit. The flyer listed the website for Sinema’s group and an email of a local anarchist group that also participated.

Another flyer urged direct action “against Bush and his fascist, imperialist war.” A cartoon on the flyer said, “Government is slavery,” and “Its laws are cobwebs for the rich and chains of steel for the poor.” The flier contained the email for a local anarchist group that was a rally co-sponsor.

A third flyer said, “Speak out against the war” and “Stop the OILigarchy.” It depicted a large group of trumpets standing in the path of an oncoming American tank with a bodiless pair of eyes in a helmet poking out of the top. The flyer listed Sinema’s personal email at the time.

And Sinema promoted the common leftist conspiracy at the time that the Iraq War was all about oil:

“So this is not about the United States doing the right and moral thing by a toppling an evil dictator,” she said. “This is more about the United States having access to the oil and the power and control and world stature that it’s seeking. It’s not about the individuals in Iraq.”

I don’t think “youthful indiscretion” will suffice in this case. You don’t change from a flaming radical Greenie to “moderate.” It’s not a credible transformation and McSally should be able to make Sinema pay.