Michael "Go F–k Yourself" Baumgartner's Position on Afghanistan Probably Won't Get As Much Play as Todd Akin's on Abortion

The Republican Senate hopeful in Washington state worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and still advises for the military. He wants the wars to end


Michael Baumgartner is a state senator running against the Democratic incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell in Washington. Baumgartner  is making some news for shooting a "vulgar" e-mail off to a reporter after a story hooked to rape comments made by Missouri candidate Todd Akins. With an attached photo, the full text read: "Josh, this is Pat Feeks, a Navy SEAL killed last week in Afghanistan. Take a good look and then go fuck yourself."

In the article, Josh Feit, the recipient of the e-mail, reported:

Concluding that he wanted a truce in the culture wars and his campaign was about jobs and ending the war in Afghanistan, he said: "The culture wars are not why I'm in the state senate or running against my opponent. I'm pragmatic. I objected to the expansion of abortion services, but I voted for two budgets that funded [family planning] services."

Baumgartner actually has a background in America's 21st century land wars and continues to advise the military periodically. From a June press release:

Baumgartner, who holds a Masters degree in International Development from Harvard, served as an economics officer at the US Embassy in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and worked as an embedded advisor to an Afghan counter-narcotics team in 2009.

Since then he has frequently been asked to advise members of the US military on issues related to counter-insurgency, lecturing on more than 30 occasions at military bases around the country.

"I was first asked by the US military to lecture on economic development when I was with the State Department in Iraq, and regularly spoke at the Counterinsurgency Leaders Course at Camp Taji. Since then the requests have kept coming. It will be a great day when it's no longer needed."

Baumgartner, who has called for an end to the Afghan War as part of his political campaign, does not advocate that policy position in his lectures, instead focusing on economics and civilian engagement in the effort to erode Afghan civilian support for the Taliban insurgents.
"Many of these servicemen and women are on their third or fourth deployments," Baumgartner said. "While I believe that we need to bring the war to a responsible close, that's a political decision outside their control. My goal during the lectures is to provide the best support I can to the soldiers preparing to head into an enormous challenge."

On his campaign site, Baumgartner says he supports "ending the wars" and a "smarter foreign policy." This Bellingham Herald article quotes the candidate pointing out the Senate is supposed to advise on foreign policy and that too few Senators are capable of that. From the Herald here's Baumgartner on Iran:

Asked if he favors military intervention to shut down Iran's nuclear program, Baumgartner was skeptical.

"The reality with Iran is that we have a lot of bad options," he said. "If something's going to be done, it has to have more chance of success than failure."

Although — like Barack Obama — he believes that intervention should not be ruled out, he also observed that those who are calling for a U.S. military strike may not have thought it through.

"Presidential candidates have a natural impetus to look tough on these things," Baumgartner said.

Democrats, meanwhile, went to work painting him as an extremist immediately after his announcement. From the Spokesman Review:

Democrats were quick to brand Baumgartner as a far-right extremist for signing the 2010 Spokane County Republican platform which calls for such things as withdrawing from the United Nations, eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, returning to the gold standard and repealing the Endangered Species Act.

The Republican is polling well behind Senator Cantwell. The article that spurred his news-making response was part of a "one question" series. Being more interested in a self-consistent attribute of a "pro-life" stance than in asking a question like "what would you do about Afghanistan policy?" to a candidate whose strand of foreign policy politics might stray from bipartisan establishment orthodoxy, and who's expressed a desire to call attention to an issue as important as the war in Afghanistan, one even the Defense Secretary is trying to push into the news cycle, suggests political interest in the culture wars remains much higher than on the issues that actually determine the course of the country.

Ron Paul's continued fight for delegates and Gary Johnson's campaign to get into the presidential debates notwithstanding, with less than a hundred days left in the election the window for the muddled decade-long war in Afghanistan to enter the forefront on the campaign trail continues to close.