Mike ‘The Mouth’ Feeley’s ‘chickhawk’ blunder

By Hugh Hewitt

Colorado’s 7th Congressional District is an “open” seat, created by judicial order and carefully balanced between registered Republicans and Democrats. It is a shame that the Democratic candidate for the seat, Mike Feeley, couldn’t have been as balanced as the district he seeks to represent.

This is a story of one candidate’s meltdown, but it also an indictment of the leadership of Tom Daschle and Al Gore. Feeley could understandably claim that these two leaders made him do “it.”

What is it that he did? Feeley branded the president and vice president as “chickenhawks” and called Cheney an “SOB” to boot. Then he tried to squirm out of having done so.

Here’s what happened.

The Republican candidate is businessman and community stalwart Bob Beauprez. Beauprez is believed to have a small but significant lead in the race which both parties have targeted. Beauprez and Feeley met to debate on the same night that Tom Daschle melted down on the Senate floor, two days after Al Gore went hard left in a bid to lead the Democratic peace caucus.

Feeley must have been carried away by the rhetoric he heard that day, as he used the debate to demand an apology from the president. If the president didn’t apologize to the Senate, Feeley said, “we’ll play politics.” He continued, “I’ll talk about every chickenhawk Republican running for office – who never served a day in uniform defending his nation – asking for your vote so they can go to Washington and send someone else’s child to war.”

Reaction was immediate and negative. Feeley may have counted on his three-year hitch in the Marine Corps as cover for such an inflammatory statement, but veterans and non-veterans alike weren’t buying this tactic. Not even Silver Star recipient Sen. John Kerry or Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Daniel Inouye try such fundamentally un-American rhetoric, and Feeley’s three years as an electronics technician in California, Washington, D.C. and Okinawa, though honorable, hardly armors him to the point that he can use rhetoric that combat veterans eschew.

Feeley came on my radio program on Friday after a day of pounding from callers and commentators throughout the Denver region. My first two questions were: Is the president a chickenhawk? Feeley said no. Is the vice president a chickenhawk? Feeley said no. Would Feeley define “chickenhawk.” Feeley wouldn’t. Did Feeley want to apologize for using a word he couldn’t define? No.

Listeners responded that Feeley’s performance was among the most self-destructive they had ever heard. The questions weren’t hard, but Feeley would neither back down nor stand up. The impression he left was of a loudmouth caught in the spotlight, or as they say in Texas, “all hat and no cattle.” It didn’t help him when Feeley went on to declare against parental notification in the case of minors seeking abortion and to stoutly defend the necessity of keeping legal partial birth abortion. The only answers he could confidently give were on litmus tests of the far left.

But the pain will continue for Feeley this week as well, because just hours before appearing on my show he gave an interview to Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin.

“[Feeley’s] an ex-Marine, and he was angry enough to demand his own apology from those who managed not to fight in the Vietnam War,” wrote Littwin. Note that the phrasing of this sentence may lead a reader to conclude that Feeley was a combat veteran. Again, Feeley gets the full credit for serving his country, but has he been overstating his own war-record, or allowing others to draw wrong conclusions? Those questions become relevant, because Feeley goes on to attack the president’s military record, which you may recall involved, as one caller put it, “strapping a jet on his back.”

About Cheney, Feeley tells Littwin, “I thought, you know, ‘You SOB.’ You’ve got to be kidding me. At least Bush showed up at the Guard a couple of times … but Cheney didn’t even do that. He had other things to do.”

The sound you hear is of a minor-leaguer going zero for 30 in his first, and last, trip to the big league. Bluster is never pretty, and even veteran pals like Daschle do pratfalls when they start demanding apologies from presidents. But I have searched my memory in vain for any other figure of respect and authority calling Dick Cheney an SOB and a chickenhawk, only to flatly state hours later that, indeed, the vice president was not a chickenhawk. Feeley, in short, set some kind of a record for immaturity in his brief turn on the national stage.

Of course Feeley’s a bit player in the comedy that is the Democratic campaign of 2002, but he was taking his cues from the national leadership. Feeley’s fiasco is playing itself out over and over again across the country, whether it is Congressman Jim McDermott’s crazy trip to Iraq and crazier remarks on his return, or the idea of having Bobby “Rolexes” Torricelli give the Democrats’ national radio address two days after new revelations of the depth of his corruption.

At some point voters begin to wonder that, all issues aside, if the Democrats can’t run a political campaign, how in the world are they going to run a war on terror?