Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.
Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.
"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."
Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.
"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run."
Mr. Hackett was widely criticized last year for using indecent language to describe President Bush. Last month, state Republicans attacked Mr. Hackett for saying their party had been hijacked by religious extremists who he said "aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden."
Though Republicans called for an apology, Mr. Hackett repeated the mantra of his early campaign: "I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it."
"I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it." Are you listening, Democrats? That should be your response every single time the Republicans and all their media zombies whine and rage and demand an apology from you for not rolling over and playing dead. And this is the guy you push out of the Senate race? The guy who is exactly the kind of breath-of-fresh-air candidate your spineless party needs? What the hell are you THINKING???
I'd say that this has made me lose all faith in the Democratic party's leadership, except their fold-job on Alito already took care of that. What they don't appear to understand is that, in addition to the obvious, immediate tactical disadvantages of opposing Hackett and not Alito, there is also a less obvious, but even more significant negative impact on the party's grass roots and base, who become increasingly disgusted and disillusioned with the Democrats, and consequently less willing to donate time or money, or to turn out in droves on Election Day.
And just who is the brilliant political mastermind behind this daring new Democratic strategy? It wasn't easy, but I pulled some strings, and was able to get this exclusive picture of the Democrats' new chief political advisor, Robert Karl:
You're doin' a heckuva job, uh, Karlie.