Most politicians would do anything to avoid disparaging veterans. But Rep. Jacky Rosen, now running for the U.S. Senate, isn’t most politicians, and Sen. Dean Heller wants to make sure you know about it.
Yes, that’s the same Jane Fonda whom many Vietnam War veterans dubbed “Hanoi Jane” when she was photographed smiling while sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. The same Jane Fonda who said POWs claiming torture were “hypocrites and liars.” The same Jane Fonda who voiced North Vietnamese radio messages that urged American pilots to stop their missions.
“It really just irks the hell out of me knowing that Jacky Rosen is over in Hollywood today marching with Hanoi Jane in order to get money,” said Assemblyman and Navy veteran Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas. “It is a slap in the face to the 90,000 Nevada Vietnam veterans who’ve already been slapped at and spit at for far too long. Though Jacky will profess to be a military brat, just like Jane Fonda was, I dare say that she was more brat than military.”
Edwards made his remarks while at a Republican military appreciation barbecue held the same day as Rosen’s fundraiser. The timing was no coincidence.
It was a smart political play to highlight a clear contrast between Heller and Rosen.
“We do this because of what our veterans have done for us,” said Heller. “I compare that to what my opponent is doing right now. My opponent right now is breaking bread with Hanoi Jane.
“This is the same Hanoi Jane that said it was understandable that our military men were being tortured in Vietnam.”
Fonda’s statements once ensured that opposing her was a bipartisan affair. The Washington Post reported that, in 1973, Maryland Delegate William Burkhead, a Democrat, said of Fonda, “I wouldn’t want to kill her, but I wouldn’t mind if you cut her tongue off.”
Politically, this is a winning issue for Heller, and not just because of Rosen’s inexcusable decision to fundraise with someone who’s been so disrespectful to veterans. He has a good story to tell on veterans issues. Last year, President Donald Trump signed into law nine veteran-related bills on which Heller had worked.
Trump even came to Reno to sign a bill Heller co-sponsored that overhauled the Veterans Affairs appeals process.
Heller said the backlog at the VA’s Reno regional office used to be the “worst” in the country but is now below the national average. Last month, Gov. Brian Sandoval also announced that the Northern Nevada Veterans Home received a $33.5 million VA grant. Heller touted the news and said he “helped secure” the funding in the recently passed omnibus measure. The TV ads and campaign mailers write themselves.
In contrast, Rosen’s campaign website mentions veterans only once — in a press release on recreational marijuana. A similar search of Heller’s website came up with 115 mentions of veterans.
This issue also gives Heller a chance to rally Republicans who’ve been — and remain — furious at him for sinking the Obamacare repeal bill in 2017. Pointing out that your Democrat opponent is associating with Hanoi Jane is a great way to get the base to ignore your own missteps. Supporting veterans also plays well across the political spectrum. In a difficult national environment for Republicans, and with Rosen rapidly closing the fundraising gap, Heller needs his opponent to make mistakes like this.
“We have 300,000 veterans, and every one of them have family members here in the state of Nevada,” said Heller. “I want them to know that I have their back.”
Asked if he thought Rosen had veterans’ back, Heller said, “You’ll have to ask her.”
I tried. Her campaign office didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.