Wisconsin paper demands GOP Senate candidate apologize for gross smear


Republican candidate Leah Vukmir continues to face fallout for calling Sen. Tammy Baldwin a terrorist.

State Sen. Leah Vukmir is the Wisconsin GOP's preferred pick to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. But she continues to face backlash over an inflammatory press release saying Baldwin is on "Team Terrorists" and wants to give 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "hugs and safe spaces."

As the controversy continues to burn on Wednesday, the editorial board of the Wisconsin State Journal has called on Vukmir to apologize.

"U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, hasn't teamed up with terrorists against America. That obvious fact shouldn't have to be written in an editorial," writes the board. "Yet with two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin trying to out-Trump each other in their hotly contested Republican primary, the insults are devolving quickly."

Vukmir attacked Baldwin for refusing to give an instant endorsement of Trump's pick for CIA director Gina Haspel, who ran a Bush-era black site in Thailand where detainees were brutally tortured. Haspel also faces scrutiny for destroying video footage of some of the interrogations.

As the editorial notes, Baldwin failing to instantly rubber-stamp Haspel "doesn’t mean she’s siding with terrorists against America, as Vukmir wildly claimed." After all, Sen. John McCain — a Republican and a former POW who was famously tortured in Vietnam — opposes her nomination as well.

"Trump took the low road to high office when he won the White House. But his crude and chaotic presidency is now causing a backlash against Republicans at the polls," the editorial continues. "So Vukmir hasn't done herself or her campaign any favors with this stunt."

The editorial concludes, "Vukmir should quickly do something the Republican president never does. She should apologize."

However, Republican politicians attacking others who do not unflinchingly throw away civil liberties and human rights as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers — or, in this case, as being on "team terrorist" — is not something new to the Trump era. It was a scare tactic of the GOP in the aftermath of 9/11, to consolidate power behind President George W. Bush and his congressional allies.

In one of the most infamous examples, former Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland — a triple-amputee war hero who voted against Bush's domestic security proposals — was defeated in 2002 by Republican Saxby Chambliss, thanks in part to a disgusting ad mixing Cleland's face with images of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Vukmir has now dusted off that old playbook. But the backlash and condemnation suggests that it no longer works.